Dhaka dwellers face water crisis amid load shedding

Dhaka WASA is not being able to operate pumps for the required amount of time due to load shedding. People of at least 35 areas have been suffering acutely

Dhaka WASA buildingFile photo

The residents of ‘Block G’ of Aftabnagar in the capital did not get any water supply through the pipelines of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) on Monday and Tuesday. They were fetching water from the neighbouring area, Banasri But water became scarce in Banasri too on Tuesday.

Wishing not to be named, a resident of Aftabnagar ‘Block G’ told Prothom Alo, “How would people survive if there is no water in this scorching heat? We need more water now but there is no supply of water.”

This grim picture is not an isolated incident for the people of the residential area. Rather, Prothom Alo received such allegations from at least 35 areas in the capital. In some places the WASA is not supplying sufficient water while in other areas people are not being able to buy required amount of water the WASA supplies on demand through its vehicles.

The Dhaka WASA authorities say they are not being able to operate pumps due to load shedding. The crisis has intensified as demand of water increases than normal time when the temperature is very hot.

Dhaka WASA director (technical) AKM Shahid Uddin told Prothom Alo, “All the pumps cannot be run due to load shedding as we do not have sufficient generators to operate all the pumps at once. This has created the crisis. The water crisis will decline if the power crisis decreases or it rains within one or two days.”

Demand and production

According to the Dhaka WASA around 2.55-2.6 billion litres of water is required in the Dhaka city every day in any normal time. WASA produces almost 2.88 billion litres of water. But area-wise problems often appear when pumps are out of order and due to the wastage during supply, also known as system loss (which amount to 20 per cent of total production).

The current demand of water every day is nearly 3 billion litres, said the WASA. As a result, the problem intensified in many areas.

Nearly 67 per cent of Dhaka WASA water comes from groundwater sources. Currently, the WASA has 1,061 pumps (including the ones on standby). If there is load shedding the WASA operate the pumps with their own generators. But the organisation does not have the capacity to operate all the pumps by generator. That is why it keeps many pumps shut.

Several sources of Dhaka WASA said it has around 400 generators.

Dhaka WASA’s water supply system is divided into 10 zones. Information collected from the zones on Monday shows the problem is acute in fives zones (1, 2, 3, 5 and 10) due to the load shedding. The pumps in the areas were shut down 158 times due to electricity crisis. On the previous day the pumps in those areas were shut 149 times.

Areas in crisis

Dhaka WASA supplies water to whole Dhaka city. Prothom Alo collected data from both the residents of different areas in the city and from the WASA. It shows the water crisis was persisting in 35 areas on Tuesday.

A resident of Himbari in Joar Sahara area said they are in dire straits as they are not getting any WASA water for almost a week. They even complained to the organisation but to no avail.

Several people of Aftabnagar and Banasri areas reiterated this. Aftabnagar and Joar Sahara areas are within the WASA’s zone-8. The water crisis persists in Solmaid, Badda and Shahzadpur that also falls within the zone-8 of Dhaka WASA.

Reports of water crisis were found from Kajlarpar, Dayaganj, KB Road, the area adjacent to Madhya Basabo grounds and Maniknagar under Zone-1. The same was reported from Chan Mia Housing in Mohammadpur, Adabor, Shyamoli, Purba Razabazar and Crescent Road of Zone-3 while residents of Block-Ja in Mohakhali in zone-5, Nandipara of zone-6, and Jurain, Matuail, Rahmatpur, Konapara, Dogair and Kadamtali areas in zone-7.

Dwellers of sector-11 and 12 of Uttara and Uttar Khan and Dakkhin Khan also complained about the persisting water crisis. These areas fall within zone-9. The crisis was also reported from Ibrahimpur, Kafrul, Bhasantek, and Block-B of Mirpur-11. These areas fall under zone-10.

The people also complained that the pressure of supply is low at places while the water is supplied just once or twice in 24 hours.

Over 400 complaints

Any consumer can file a complaint by dialing WASA’s hotline 16162. As per Dhaka WASA, 456 people phoned them to file different complaints regarding water.

Wishing not to be named, a WASA official told Prothom Alo, “Most of the complaints were about not getting any supply water. Some even talked about bad odour in the water. Most of the complaints recorded were from zone-3 (Lalmatia, Mohammadpur and neighbouring areas). Some 418 complaints were filed on Sunday.”

Water vehicles scarce

The only alternative to supply water from WASA is to buy water from the organisation that it supplies through vehicles. Dhaka WASA has vehicles that can carry 2000, 3500, 5000 and 6000 litres of water which would cost between Tk 300-600.

Dhaka WASA sources said it received demand of 1548 vehicles of water in 10 zonal offices on Monday but it could supply only 732 vehicles of water.

The Dhaka WASA authorities hiked water price at least 14 times in the last 13 years. It has also taken large projects costing a huge amount of money but the organisation is now failing to operate pumps due to lack of enough generators during load shedding.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Adil Mohammed Khan, professor of Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Jahangirnagar University said, “Water supply is an essential service. There has to be preparation so that load shedding or any other crisis cannot disrupt the service.”

“People suffer more in water crisis than power crisis. Water crisis also makes people more agitated,” he added.

* The report was originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza