Every Drop Counts: Increasing water security in coastal areas of Bangladesh
05 December 2022
We are dependent on the ponds as the only source of drinking water during the dry season or when there is salinity intrusion in the water
Sutarkhali Union is on the coastal side of Bangladesh which exposes it to constant climate hazards such as cyclones, tidal surges, riverbank erosion, salinity intrusion, and more. Salinity intrusion especially affect the community in multiple ways as there is crop production damage leading to unstable livelihoods and a shortage of drinking water.
"We are dependent on the ponds as the only source of drinking water. So, during the dry season or when there is salinity intrusion in the water, we have no access to safe drinking water,” says Rahima, a resident of the Union.
Reports suggest that many people residing in the coastal areas consume higher amounts of salt than required which may cause severe health hazards in the long run. Moreover, women who are primarily in charge of households are being tasked to walk long distances up to almost 3km a day, under the scorching heat or pouring rain to bring drinking water from far away ‘sweet water’ ponds as they call it, which is harmful to their bodies.
“It worries me when I leave three of my children at home all alone to bring water. It takes me more than 2 hours, as I rush back home to cook and feed them,” says Madhobi as she shares her daily struggle.
The Local Government Initiative on Climate Change (LoGIC) project led by the Local Government Division of the Ministry of Local Government Rural Development and Cooperatives, is a joint 4-year initiative of the Government of Bangladesh, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the European Union, and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The project uses UNCDF transferred Performance Based Climate Resilience Grants (PBCRG) to climate-vulnerable local governments as additional financing and complements the general grant resources provided by the Government to all Union Parishads (UPs). The specific purpose of PBCRG is to help UPs make investments to strengthen resilience to climate and disaster impacts, covering infrastructure and public services for the poor.
To ensure safe drinking water for local people in the saline-prone Suterkhali Union of Dacope Upazila of Khulna district, the LoGIC project is supporting the local governments to implement some adaptive technologies. Rainwater harvesting is a cheap and nature-based technology with no negative impact on the environment. It can ensure a supply of drinking water for several months if enough water is stored properly.
However, considering that there may be variability in rainfall, the LoGIC project diversified the use of technology to ensure a year-round supply of drinking water. The project installed a treatment plant to supply pure drinking water free from microbes, an excessive amount of salts, or other solutes harmful to human health. Moreover, this water treatment plant is a suitable solution in places where people are not culturally accustomed to drinking rainwater.
In the Sutarkhali Union, a sweet water pond that preserves rainwater was re-excavated with PBCRG support to increase water availability in the community. The water treatment plant was set up to benefit approximately 1,200 people from 300 households, particularly women. The project had a planned cost of USD19,000, of which USD17,500 was provided by UNCDF/LoGIC, and then the rest was co-financed by the local government and the government’s public health engineering department. The water treatment plant produces 5000 liters of clean drinking water every single day which caters to the requirements of the local salinity-affected communities.
“By channeling additional resources based on the requirements of the community in a coordinated approach, the LoGIC has implemented a low-cost, nature-based technology. Women no longer have to walk long hours to bring water and the community no longer suffers from health hazards from drinking saline water,” says Masum Ali, the chairman of the Union.
Moreover, an ATM has been set up in the plant where the users pay Taka 0.40 per liter by using a smart card to buy water. In one year, the plant has earned USD1,200 by selling water to the beneficiaries and has a saving of USD120 after meeting all expenditures.
The LoGIC played a catalytic role for this community to build resilience against climate change by working with the community and the UPs to bring out sustainable solutions.