Population Growth and Drinking Water Crises in Bangladesh – Shishir Reza

Issue, National

Population growth is the main cause of the socio-economic problems including environmental degradation, water pollution, desertification, potable water crises, intensive cultivation, over utilization of grazing and other climatic hazards. Life is dependent on water, and without water no form of life can survive. Every year thousands and thousands of people, especially children, fall prey to water-borne diseases, and nearly half of them die. Water pollution is a serious issue as not only is water the most precious natural resource, but all sources of water support life that is very necessary for the survival of the planet. Water pollution destroys life and ecology and such damage is irreparable. Population density implies as the number of persons per sq. km which is 1251 now. Population growth of Bangladesh rate is 1.17%, total population 170 million, Birth’s per day 1706, Death’s per day 473(Average). The indicators of population status are population growth, life expectancy, crude birth rate, crude death rate, total fertility rate ( 15-49 years, considering in Bangladesh) etc. The growth rate population leads the drinking water security for all.

Setting the Scene

Over the last two decades, Bangladesh has been grappled with a series of environmental deterioration by means of land encroachment at forest, destruction of wetlands and inland fisheries, surface and groundwater pollution, soil nutrient depletion, inland salinity intrusion, natural calamities like floods, cyclones, tidal surges and tornadoes have resulted in severe socio-economic and environmental damage by a combination of natural/anthropogenic factors. Although the country is making some efforts to resolve some of these environmental issues, no efforts will be adequate to face these challenges without identifying the underlying causes nationally and addressing them locally. Some of these root causes are strong broad based social movement for environmental protection, lack of understanding of ecological principles, poverty and lack of adequate alternate resources.
In 2000, the world population had reached 6 billion and in 2010, it was 7 billion, by 2015, it will be 8 billion and it will reach 9 billion within 2050. Over 90% of this growth will be in developing countries. So, of course there will be increased demand for food and for all other necessities of life. When this demand exceeds the sustainable production of agricultural lands, forests and aquatic regimes, the resource base itself will be eroded. Although the growth rate of population in Bangladesh is seen to be falling, its size is already large. Projections of Population with density of Bangladesh:

Year Population Density (Km2 )
2020 170,466,782 1309
2025 179,063,375 1375
2030 186,459,898 1432
2035 192,500,115 1478
2040 197,133,813 1514
2045 200,380,556 1539
2050 202,209,053 1553
(Source: Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, UN, 2016)

As a result, at rural areas? commercialization of agriculture, contract farming, commercial cultivation in forest area, hill cutting, extraction and depletion of groundwater, land degradation, shrimp farming by encroaching crop fields as well as at urban areas? inadequate and poor housing, slumization ( about 35% people city dwellers are living in over 1300 slums in Dhaka city), urban waste generation, poor sanitation, lower quality of waste/effluent treatment systems, air and water pollution, faulty transport system both has already accelerated environmental degradation of our country.

Population Growth and Drinking Water Crises in Bangladesh

Drinking Water: Significance and Quality

Water a renewable resource, dissolves nutrients and transfers them to cell, regulates global temperature, supports structure and removes waste products. Natural stores of water in hydrological cycle are oceans 97.41%, ice caps and glaciers 1.9%, ground water 0.5%, soil moisture 0.01, lakes and river 0.009% and atmosphere 0.0001%. In this planet, 97.5% water is saline where only 0.03% is pure to drink. Climate change, sea-level rising and global warming is changing the total global picture and it is true that third world countries are unable to face these emergency rather than first world countries.
Water quality” is a technical term that is based upon the characteristics of water in relation to guideline values of what is suitable for human consumption and for all usual domestic purposes, including personal hygiene. Components of water quality include microbial, biological, chemical, and physical aspects.

Microbial Impurities. Drinking water should not include microorganisms that are known to be pathogenic. It should also not contain bacteria that would indicate excremental pollution, the primary indicator of which are coliform bacteria that are present in the feces of warm-blooded organisms. Chlorine is the usual disinfectant, as it is readily available and inexpensive. Unfortunately, it is not fully effective, as currently used, against all organisms.

Biological Impurities. Parasitic protozoa and helminths are also indicators of water quality. Species of protozoa can be introduced into water supply through human or animal fecal contamination. Most common among the pathogenic protozoans are Entamoeba and Giardia. Coliforms are not appropriate direct indicators because of the greater resistance of these protozoans to inactivation by disinfection. Drinking water sources that are not likely to be contaminated by fecal matter should be used where possible due to the lack of good indicators for the presence or absence of pathogenic protozoa. A single mature larva or fertilized egg of parasitic roundworms and flatworms can cause infection when transmitted to humans through drinking water. The measures currently available for the detection of helminths in drinking water are not suitable for routine use.

Chemical Impurities. Chemical contamination of water sources may be due to certain industries and agricultural practices, or from natural sources. When toxic chemicals are present in drinking water, there is the potential that they may cause either acute or chronic health effects. Chronic health effects are more common than acute effects because the levels of chemicals in drinking water are seldom high enough to cause acute health effects. Since there is limited evidence relating chronic human health conditions to specific drinking-water contaminants, laboratory animal studies and human data from clinical reports are used to predict adverse effects.

Population Growth and Drinking Water Crises in Bangladesh

Physical Impurities. The turbidity, color, taste, and odor of water can be monitored. Turbidity should always be low, especially where disinfection is practiced. High turbidity can inhibit the effects of disinfection against microorganisms and enable bacterial growth. Drinking water should be colorless, since drinking-water coloration may be due to the presence of colored organic matter. Organic substances also cause water odor, though odors may result from many factors, including biological activity and industrial pollution. Taste problems relating to water could be indicators of changes in water sources or treatment process. Inorganic compounds such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, copper, iron, and zinc are generally detected by the taste of water.

Ground Water Crises: Argentina, China, India and Bangladesh

At least 140 million people in 50 countries have consumption water containing arsenic at levels above the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline – 10 mg/l. In some places, people are using groundwater with arsenic levels 10 times or more the WHO’s suggested frontier. Apart from that, Proctorial body of Unite Nations is concerned towards the goals of SDG: 3(Good health and wellbeing) and SDG: 6(Clean water and sanitation).
Arsenic-related health problems lead to significant economic losses due to lost productivity in many places. In Bangladesh, where the groundwater arsenic problem is most acute, the economic burden from lost productivity is expected to reach an estimated US$ 13.8 billion in about 10 years. This exposure, through drinking water and crops irrigated with contaminated water, can lead to severe health, social and economic consequences, including arsenicosis (muscular weakness, mild psychological effects), skin lesions, and cancers (lung, liver, kidney, bladder, and skin). Apart from that social implications of these health impacts include stigmatization, isolation, and social instability.
Cost-effective technologies are available to remove arsenic in groundwater. High natural levels of arsenic are characteristic of the groundwater supply in many countries, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Mongolia, and the USA. Some of the contamination is caused by mining, fertilizers and pesticides, waste disposal, and manufacturing, but mostly it is due to arsenic leeching – dissolved from rocks underground by highly acidic water.
A report, published by the UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, draws on 31 peer-reviewed, comparable research papers that appeared between 1996 and 2018, each describing new technologies tested in laboratories. Research from nine countries (Argentina, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Guatemala, India, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam) demonstrates arsenic removal efficiencies ranging from 50% to almost 100%; where
14 technologies tested at community level (in Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, and Nicaragua) achieved arsenic removal efficiency levels ranging from 60% to about 99%.
In general the key factors influencing removal efficiencies and costs are:
the arsenic concentration of the influent water, pH of the influent water, materials used, the energy required, absorption capacity, labor used, regeneration period and geographical location.
Dhaka, Beijing and New Delhi and some other countries with certain environmental hazards- such as very high arsenic concentrations in groundwater – situate higher, easier-to-reach national arsenic concentration targets.
In Bangladesh, for example, where the nationally-acceptable arsenic limit in water is set to .5 mg/l, it’s estimated that more than 20 million people consume water with arsenic levels even higher than the national standard.
The technologies in hand today can significantly lessen the numbers of people affected by this public health problem. Time demands a sustained, concerted effort from policymakers, engineers, healthcare providers, donors, and community leaders to achieve quantifiable and sustainable impacts.

Existing Context of Water Bodies in Bangladesh

Our water body is being polluted by agricultural pollutants, industrial effluents, different rivers are losing their life, climate change affects the water table, policy is failing to manage this public goods; onthe other side, corporate elites are trying to use this gap as their interlude of profit. Nowadays, local, national and international companies are doing their water business in our country.After all, quality and access ofpure water is lessening day by day due to the rapidly growing population; industrial contamination; slumization; improper use of agricultural synthetic chemicals and pesticides; indiscriminate disposal of municipal wastes, poorly designed flood control and water supply systems, drainage and irrigation works, lack of adequate regulatory measures and institutional setup for proper monitoring and control.
Asian water development outlook, 2016 mentions; 80% wastes are dumping into river in Bangladesh. Water security index indicates Bangladesh is 44th out of 48 countries.Around 250 industries are discharging chemical pollutants into Buriganga and Sitalakka River. Every day four thousand tons solid waste & 22 thousand tons tannery waste mixes with water in Buriganga River.Different industries and their contribution to pollution in Dhaka are:Pulp & paper – 47.4%; pharmaceuticals – 15.9%; Metals -14%; Food industry – 12.1%; Fertilizers/pesticides – 6.6%.
In urban areas, the groundwater laced with harmful chemicals may then be supplied to urban dwellers who are unknowingly exposed to health hazards. Sewages are discharging directly into the rivers and low-lying part around the urban areas. In Dhaka, 20 canals have lost her life out of 43.Heavy metals ? copper, iron, lead, nickel is distressing the BOD, COD, DO, TDS, PH of water. Different projects were taken to recovery the present situation of canal and pond in Dhaka city. Such as, dredging Buriganga River by WASA, dig the daleshawri, pungli-Bangshi and bring water through Jamuna to meet the demand of Buriganga River. But the projects could not see the light of a day. Eutrophication and bacterial content in lakes and rivers are also high. This is a threat to the health of urban dwellers as river water is also supplied by the “Water Supply & Sewerage Authority” for drinking and other purposes.This is happening in all cities of Bangladesh.Reduction of ‘river water flow due to siltation’ is increasing salinity at coastal areas. Unplanned shrimp farming creates more salinity affecting the agricultural land and water quality particularlyin Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts.

Population Growth and Drinking Water Crises in BangladeshImportance of Water Effective  Water Distribution Systems

Water distribution is the process of bringing water to consumers. It takes a number of forms around the world from pressurized municipal water that delivers water directly into homes to travelling tanker trunks that distributes water to community access points. Distribution of water resources are usually overseen by a government agency, although private utilities may also be involved. A water distribution system should satisfy the following general considerations;
Circulation of Water: The layout of distribution system should be such that there is free circulation of water and that the number of dead ends should be very few. Where dead ends are unavoidable, the hydrants will be provided to act as washouts.
Construction and Design: The construction and design of water distribution system should be such that ample water is available at all times at desired pressure in all portions of the distribution system. The minimum residual pressure at ferrule point for direct supply to single-storeyed, two-storeyed and three-storeyed buildings should be respectively 7m, 12m and 17m.
Contamination by Sewage: The water pipe line should be laid above the sewers at a vertical distance of about 2m and the horizontal distance between pipe lines and sewers should be at least 3m.
Earth Cushioning: The mains which are laid under roads should be provided with a minimum earth cushioning of 900mm height from the top of mains. At other place, the cushioning may be of 750mm of height.
Economy: The layout and design of distribution system should be economical. The cost of distribution system forms a substantial part to the extent of about 90 percent of the total cost of the water supply project.
Fire Demand: The distribution should be so laid that the water for fire demand is available in required quantity.
Gradient: It is not necessary to lay mains at constant gradients. But the gradients of mains should in general follow the natural contour of ground.
Leakage: It should be fairly watertight and loss of water due to leakage should be brought down to the minimum possible extent.
Repairs: It should be so laid as to permit easy repairs. The broken or worn out parts of the equipments for various operations should be properly replaced.
Pollution Safety: It should be such that does not contribute to the pollution of water following in it.
Sanitation Security: The sanitation of area through which the distribution system is passing should be good so that there are no chances for water to be polluted during repairs or replacements of pipe lines.
Unsafe cross connection: The system should not have any unsafe cross connection from which there are chances for contaminated water to enter it.

Cost-effective Solution of Fresh Water Scarcity

Globally, half a billion people know-how water insufficiency year in a circle; for 1.5 to 2 billion people water resources are unsatisfactory to assemble demands for at least part of the year. Desalination technologies can provide an unrestricted, climate sovereign and fixed supply of high quality water, chiefly used by the community and industrial sectors. In particular, desalination is a vital technology in the Middle East and for tiny island nations which typically lack renewable water resources.
Nowadays almost 16,000 desalination plants are in operation in 177 countries, producing 95 million cubic meters of freshwater every day. Falling economic costs of desalination and the development in membrane technologies, particularly reverse osmosis, have made desalination a cost-competitive and attractive source of freshwater around the globe.
The increase in desalination has been driven by intensifying water scarcity due to rising water demands associated with population growth, increased water consumption per capita, and economic growth, coupled with diminishing water supplies due to climate change and contamination.
The most complete ever compiled – to revise the world’s badly outdated statistics on desalination plants. Most startling was our finding that the volume of hyper saline brine produced overall is about 50% more than previously estimated.
Globally, plants now discharge 142 million cubic meters of hyper saline brine every day – enough in a single year to cover Florida under 1 foot of brine. Considered another way, the data shows that for every unit of freshwater output, desalination plants produce on average 1.5 units of brine.
Some two-thirds of desalination plants are in high-income countries, with capacity concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa. And over half – 55% – of global brine is produced in just four countries: Saudi Arabia (22%), UAE (20.2%), Kuwait (6.6%) and Qatar (5.8%).
Middle Eastern plants, which largely operate using seawater and thermal desalination technologies, typically produce 4 times as much brine per cubic meter of clean water as plants where river water membrane processes dominate. Brine disposal methods, meanwhile, are largely dictated by geography but traditionally include direct discharge into oceans, surface water or sewers, deep well injection and brine evaporation ponds. Desalination plants near the ocean (almost 80% of brine is produced within 10km of a coastline) most often discharge untreated waste brine directly back into the marine environment. Brine raises the salinity of the receiving seawater, and brine underflows deplete dissolved oxygen needed to sustain life in the marine environment. This high salinity and reduced levels of dissolved oxygen can have profound impacts on marine ecosystems and organisms, especially those living on the seafloor, which can translate into ecological effects observable throughout the food chain. Furthermore, the oceans are polluted with toxic chemicals used as anti-scalants and anti-foulants in the desalination process.
There is a clear need for improved brine management strategies to meet this rising challenge. This is particularly important in countries producing large volumes of brine with relatively low efficiencies, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.
In fact, we can convert this environmental problem into an economic opportunity. Brine has many potential uses, offering commercial, social and environmental gains.
It has been used for aquaculture, with increases in fish biomass of 300% achieved.
It has also been successfully used to irrigate salt tolerant species, to cultivate the dietary supplement to generate electricity, and to irrigate forage shrubs and crops.
With improved technologies, a large number of metals, salt and other minerals in desalination plant effluent could be mined.
These include sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, bromine, boron, strontium, lithium, rubidium and uranium, all used by industry, in products, and in agriculture. The needed technologies are immature, however; recovery of these resources is economically uncompetitive today.
Research and ideas related to a variety of unconventional water sources scaled up to meet the even superior deficit in freshwater supplies looming in much of the world. In particular, we need to make desalination technologies more reasonable and enlarge them to low-income and lower-middle income countries like Bangladesh. Costs are falling from continued improvements in energy recovery systems and the coupling of desalination plants. At the same time, we have to address potentially severe downsides of desalination – the harm of chemical pollution to the marine environment and public health.

Water Wastages and Related Diseases

In 1854, a cholera outbreak in London’s Soho district was identified by Dr. John Snow as originating from contaminated water from the Broad street pump. This can be regarded as a founding event of the science of epidemiology. In 1980, a hepatitis A surge due to the consumption of water from a feces-contaminated well, in Pennsylvania. In 1987, a cryptosporidiosis outbreak is caused by the public water supply of which the filtration was contaminated, in western Georgia. Fluoride intoxication in a long-term hemodialysis unit of university hospital due to the failure of a water deionization system. In 1988, many people were poisoned in Camelford, when a worker put 20 tonnes of aluminium sulphate in the wrong tank. In 1993, a fluoride poisoning outbreak resulting from overfeeding of fluoride, in Mississippi. In 1993, Milwaukee Cryptosporidium outbreak. An outbreak of typhoid fever in northern Israel, which was associated with the contaminated municipal water supply. In 1997, 369 cases of cryptosporidiosis occurred, caused by a contaminated fountain in the Minnesota zoo. Most of the sufferers were children. In 1998, a non-chlorinated municipal water supply was blamed for a campylobacteriosis outbreak in northern Finland. In 2000, a gastroenteritis outbreak that was brought by a non-chlorinated community water supply, in southern Finland. In 2000, an E. coli outbreak occurred in Walkerton Ontario Canada. Seven people died from drinking contaminated water. Hundreds suffered from the symptoms of the disease, not knowing if they too would die. In 2004, contamination of the community water supply, serving the Bergen city centre of Norway, was later reported after the outbreak of waterborne giardiasis. In 2007, contaminated drinking water was pinpointed which had led to the outbreak of gastroenteritis with multiple a etiologies.
We have to stop disposal of paints, oils, polish and any cleaning products in the toilet, sink or down the drain; not to throw trash in any water body or near those places. If you litter in any such place, then make sure that you collect them and throw them in the bin. You should also ensure that other people also do not spread litter. Otherwise, the litter will end up in the sewers and ultimately in the seas and lakes; and adopt a recycling lifestyle. You should also use environment-friendly household products that can be recycled. Such products ensure minimal wastage and thus help in keeping the environment clean and unsoiled.
Many people have the wrong notion that since they are not disposing the pollutants in the water they are not to blame. These people forget that 70% of the earth is covered by water, and any activity on the land can wash to the seas and oceans. Ultimately, you need to understand that preventing water pollution is to our benefit, and to the benefit of the life around us. So, it is imperative that each one works towards reducing pollutants for safe and pure water.
Context demands to maintain our vehicle so as to prevent any leakages. Oils and other toxic fluids like antifreeze from automobiles are also a major cause of water pollution. Ensuring that our town has proper sewage treatment plants so that most of the household and industrial wastes can be treated instead of dumping them in the rivers or lakes; make sure that there are no drips and leakages in the house plumbing. Saving water will ultimately lead to the reduction of water that flows into the sewage treatment.
When we watered the garden, do it with a bucket and mug instead of using a hose. Also, it is better to sweep the driveway instead of hosing it down. In this way, along with saving water you will also prevent the polluted water from running to drains or nearby water source. We have to clean the pet waste so that you do not leave it in the open; always use laundry detergents that have low levels of phosphate, as phosphate is a major water pollutant.

Forward Looking Agenda and Common Challenges

The Government of Bangladesh, in its ‘Action Plan for Poverty Reduction’, has clearly stated that to ensure 100% access topure drinking water across the country. But the practical scenario is different where the people are affected by large amount of water impurities.20 million people are suffering from Arsenicosis, keratosis,melanosis, and karato-melanosis (diseases of poor). That means 12.5 % of our total population. 43 thousand people are dying every year owing to consumption of impure water.
According to the water policy 1998, environmentally sound water management is suggested in utilization and development of water resources, construction of irrigation networks and embankments, dredging of water courses and in taking measures against river pollution. Environmental impact assessment is required before undertaking projects related to water resources development and flood control measures. The current scenario is not clearas people are deprived to access germ-free water. The ‘right to flow’ of rivers is affected. It meets the effective demand for criminalization of not only politics but also economics. Consequently, it is a truth-seeking deficiency of a state.
The human rights challenge of provisioning of germ-free water in Bangladesh is a challenge from the viewpoints of both constitutional and justifiable rights. From that standpoint, heavy metal-free water for the citizens should view as public goods. But there are some financial, technical and social constraints. Govt. should overcome the financial constraints through effective water budget, providing incentives for raising water use efficiency, rights to water through abstraction charges, power sharing strategy among administrative actors, policy formation and implementation strategy etc. It is important to resolve all technical constraints to accelerate the filtering process of heavy metals (nickel, lead, chromium, arsenic, cadmium) from impure water, emphasize surface water for irrigation and industry, engineering process of water supply and distribution, raising supply efficiency by having buried and plastic pipes in case of ground water, effluent treatment plant (liquid wastes, hard materials), sanitation, immunization and maternal health related issues. Similarly we have to address the social constraints (cropping pattern and diversification, patriarchy, climate, geographic variability, vulnerability and occupational structure) through communities ‘knowledge attitude practice’ towards life and livelihood.

Right to Water: Leaving No One Behind

In 2010, the UN recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”
The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use; which includes water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.
People are left behind without safe water for many different reasons. The following are some of the ‘grounds for discrimination’ that cause certain people to be particularly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing water: Sex and gender; Race, ethnicity, religion, birth, caste, language, and nationality; Disability, age and health status; Property, tenure, residence, economic and social status. Other factors, such as environmental degradation, climate change, population growth, conflict, forced displacement and migration flows can also disproportionately affect marginalized groups through impacts on water.
According to report of United Nations, 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home; One in four primary schools have no drinking water service, with pupils using unprotected sources or going thirsty; More than 700 children under five years of age die every day from diarrhoea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation; Globally, 80% of the people who have to use unsafe and unprotected water sources live in rural areas; Women and girls are responsible for water collection in eight out of ten households with water off-premises; For the 68.5 million people who have been forced to flee their homes, accessing safe water services is highly problematic; Around 159 million people collect their drinking water from surface water, such as ponds and streams; Around 4 billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year; Over 800 women die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth; 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.

Concluding Remarks

To ‘leave no one behind’, we must focus our efforts towards including people who have been marginalized or ignored. Water services must meet the needs of marginalized groups and their voices must be heard in decision-making processes. Regulatory and legal frameworks must recognize the right to water for all people, and sufficient funding must be fairly and effectively targeted at those who need it most. The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind,’ which is the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit.
Nowadays, billions of people are still living without safe water, which means different households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories are beleaguered to survive and thrive. Context demands to ensure pure drinking water for all – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others even who faces inequity to access safe water.

The Writer is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association.