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Bangladesh faces critical health hazards for 'unsafe water' PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

UNB, Dhaka

Bangladesh faces a critical health hazards for lack of 'safe drinking water' that forces the country to spend a whopping Tk 50 billion every year for the treatment of water-borne diseases.

Even though Bangladesh is known from ancient times for its abundance of water from various sources, one of the major problems that the country has been suffering for decades is the acute scarcity of 'safe drinking water'.

NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation, which works mainly for ensuring safe water and sanitation, said only 74 per cent of the country's population have access to safe water free from arsenic and other pollutants.

Eminent author K Park in his book, 'Text Book of Preventive and Social Medicine' (published from India in 1997), says, 'Water is considered 'safe' when it is free from pathogenic agents, free from harmful chemical substances, and pleasant to taste — i.e., ideally free from colour and odour, and usable for domestic purposes.'

A document of World Water Council says 1.1 billion people, nearly one quarter of world population, has no access to 'safe drinking water'. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.6 million deaths of children per year can be attributed to unsafe water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene.

Prior to Bangladesh's independence in 1971, surface water from ponds, lakes and rivers, and to a lesser degree, groundwater from dug wells, were the traditional sources of drinking water for the country's people.

National Sanitation Status, June 2007 states that 97.6 per cent of country's population drink piped water as well as from public tap, borehole/tubewell, protected wells, and protected spring or rainwater.

The surface water sources often get mixed with highly polluting wastewater from domestic and industrial sources. Many areas of groundwater and surface water are now contaminated with heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, and other ingredients that have adverse affect on health.

Water-borne diseases and water-caused health problems in the country are mostly due to inadequate and inefficient management of water resources, a water resources expert said. WHO indicates over 20 water-related diseases.

These include Anaemia, Arsenicosis, Ascariasis, Campylobacteriosis, Cholera, Cyanobacterial Toxins, Dengue and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, Diarrhoea, Drowning, Fluorosis, Guinea-Worm Disease (Dracuncu-liasis), Hepatitis, Japanese Encephalitis, Lead Poisoning, Leptospirosis, Malaria, Malnutrition, Methae-moglobinemia, Onchocerciasis (river blindness), Ringworm (Tinea), Scabies, Schistosomiasis, Spinal injury, Trachoma and Typhoid, and Paratyphoid Enteric fevers. Though no reliable data is available, every year in Bangladesh, a large number of people, particularly children, die of cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, and other water-borne diseases for lack of 'safe drinking water'.

Banglapedia, a leading encyclopaedia in the country, indicates that these diseases account for nearly a quarter of all illnesses in Bangladesh — about 12 per cent diarrhoea, and 10 per cent other gastro-intestinal illness including enteric fever. Thus water plays a major role in the overall disease profile of the country.

National Sanitation Status, June 2007 said every year Tk 50 billion is spent for the treatment of water-borne diseases in Bangladesh.

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