E.coli bacteria in 80pc water taps in Bangladesh: WB

DHAKA, Oct 11, 2018 : About 98 percent of Bangladesh’s population have access to water from technologically improved water sources and E. coli bacteria was present in 80 percent of private piped-water taps sampled across the country, a similar rate to water retrieved from ponds, as per a World Bank (WB) report launched here today.

“Today, 98 percent of Bangladesh’s population has access to water from technologically improved water sources. However, the water quality is poor,” said the WB report.

The report titled ‘Promising Progress: A Diagnostic of Water Supply, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Poverty in Bangladesh’ was launched at a function at Sonargaon Hotel in the city.

The report said that poor quality of drinking water affects the rich and the poor and the rural and the urban population alike.

But, the poorest quintile of the population suffers three times more from water and sanitation related gastro-intestinal diseases, the report said.

Bangladesh can reduce poverty and accelerate growth faster by taking urgent actions to improve the quality of water and sanitation, the report added.

The report also said despite the country’s remarkable progress in improving access to water and sanitation, 41 percent of all improved water sources are contaminated with E. Coli bacteria, which suggests a high prevalence of fecal contamination.

State Minister for Water Resources Muhammad Nazrul Islam attended the report launching ceremony as the chief guest while additional secretary of the Local Government Division of the LGRD Ministry Roxana Quader was present as special guest.

WB Acting Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, Sereen Juma and Co-author of the report and WB Senior Economist George Joseph also addressed on the occasion.

Muhammad Nazrul Islam said the government has launched 100-year Delta Plan where it was envisioned to ensure peoples’ access to safe drinking water in next 30 years. The government is working for ensuring water security under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he added.

Sereen Juma said poor water quality and sanitation can hold back a country’s potential because unsafe water and poor sanitation are linked to nutritional disadvantages in early-childhood.

“In Bangladesh, more than one-third of children under five are stunted, limiting their ability to grow and learn. Bangladesh has made great strides in expanding access to water and can build on that progress by focusing on improving the quality of water and sanitation,” she added.

The report said naturally occurring arsenic in ground water also affects people and about 13 percent of the country’s water sources contain arsenic levels above Bangladesh’s threshold.

The Chittagong and Sylhet divisions suffer most from arsenic contamination. Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters that disrupt water and sanitation services, it added.

During times of disaster, about a third of households in the country’s high-risk areas switch to contaminated, unimproved water sources. The coastal areas are increasingly suffering from salinity-intrusion, which is affecting the poor more.

According to the report, Bangladesh has successfully eliminated the practice of open defecation. Still, about 50 million people use shared, rudimentary toilets, and only 28 percent of toilets are equipped with soap and water. In urban areas, slums have poor access to clean water and safe sanitation. Large-city slums have five times less access to improved sanitation and have the highest rates of childhood under nutrition in the country.

George Joseph said there is scope for Bangladesh to improve access to sanitation beyond the household level to public places, schools, health facilities, and workplaces.

“Only about half of manufacturing enterprises in Bangladesh have toilets. Only half of the primary schools have separate toilets for girls, and 1 in 4 adolescent girls miss school during menstruation. A safe water and sanitation environment will encourage more women to participate in the work force,” he added.