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Water pipeline offers promise to Bangladeshi villagers

Apr 06, 2010

A pipeline network initiated under a public-private partnership for Satkhira villagers is preventing the use of arsenic contaminated water. Saving over 1500 lives many such pipeline schemes are scheduled to start by the end of April in several villages in different districts.

Water pipelines under a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme have saved over 1,500 people of Nalta village in Satkhira from saline and arsenic contaminated water.

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Since water drawn by shallow tubewells became undrinkable due to salinity and arsenic, a deep tubewell has been set up, a reservoir was built and over 13 kilometres of pipeline network was created here last December.

The deep tubewell at Hadipur, some 4 km from Nalta, is 280 feet deep and the water is salt and arsenic-free.

"We had to fetch water from places four to five kilometres away from our village. It is wonderful to have supply water at an affordable cost," Jaheda Begum, a homemaker in her 50's, said last Wednesday.

She said they now pay Tk 100 a month for the supply water. The supply runs twice a day--from 8:00 to 9:00 am and 5:00 to 6:00pm, added Jaheda.

This pipeline network in Nalta is the first of 21 PPP schemes under Bangladesh Water Supply Programme Project (BWSPP). Funded by the World Bank the project has been implemented by the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) under LGRD ministry.

The BWSPP is innovating measures like small-scale piped water in villages to keep people from using arsenic contaminated water.

In the early 90's, shallow tubewells became popular in rural areas for its low cost and convenience. But that success countered a setback as arsenic started to creep in. The water of 200 to 250 feet underground got contaminated in many parts of Bangladesh. By late 90's water from 20% tubewells became harmful for domestic work, said a World Bank report.

The World Bank and DPHE officials involved in the project said the 21 water pipeline schemes involving 18 private sponsors under implementation represent a promising service industry.

For each schemes, the WB bears 70% of the cost while private firms and NGOs the remaining 30%, which would be recovered through billing consumers for an operational period of 18 years.

As per the agreement between the sponsors and local community, a sponsor (private or NGO operator) would operate the system for an initial period of 18 years and collect a tariff between Tk 50 and Tk 150 per month from each customer based on the type of connection, said DPHE Executive Engineer Moniruzzaman.

For Nalta project Dhaka Ahsania Mission provided the fund and in return it is charging Tk 1,000 as one-time connection fee and Tk 100 as monthly charge.

One of the beneficiaries Abdul Baki told The Daily Star that the local community would takeover the scheme's operation after 18 years. So far 367 houses have been connected with the network since last December. He hopes that the number would soon cross 800.

Following the success of Nalta, four pipeline schemes are scheduled to start by the end of April, four other by June, seven more by August and the rest by September.

A total of 21 villages from different districts have been chosen under the initiative. Considering Satkhira's vulnerability to arsenic and salinity, three villages have been chosen from here. Eighteen other villages are in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Manikganj, Gazipur, Narsingdi, Mymensingh, Patuakhali, Barisal, Barguna, Dinajpur, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Meherpur, Bogra and Sirajganj.

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