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Potential for rainwater harvesting in Bangladesh

Dr. A Z M Iftikhar Hussain 1, Dr. Hassina Momotaj 2

1. Deputy Programme Manager (Arsenic), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
2. Research Officer, Arsenic Contamination Mitigation Programme, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

The recent detection of high level of arsenic concentration in numerous shallow tubewell water mostly across Bangladesh has caused serious problem for supplying safe water for drinking and other domestic uses. It is reported that more than 4000 people are suffering from arsenic-related diseases ranging from melanosis to skin cancer. It has been also reported that about 70 million people are likely to be affected through probable arsenic contamination of shallow tubewells currently serving as water points mainly for drinking and cooking purpose.

Efforts to develop remedial solution are still far from making a comprehensive breakthrough. Known arsenic removal methods work fairly well only under strictly controlled conditions, making such use impractical at household level. The fate of affected patients in terms of developing drugs, remains even more uncertain. Researchers are, however, unanimously agreed that the known treatment so far is the immediate cessation from the use of arsenic-contaminated water and resumption of the use of arsenic-free water.

The present survey has been carried out to assess the potential for harvesting of rainwater as an alternative option to provide arsenic free safe water for drinking and cooking purpose at household level. The study also examined the existing knowledge of the people regarding arsenic contamination, attitude towards switching over from hand tubewell to rainwater. Fifteen hundred respondents have been listed randomly and a questionnaire survey has been carried from Shibgonj thana of Nawabganj district, Ishwardi thana of Pabna district and Hatia thana of Noakhali district of Bangladesh.

As arsenic contamination of groundwater becoming widespread, the increasing awareness of people is enticing them to find a remedial measure. They are looking forward to an alternative source that is safe, cost-effective, available and acceptable.

Rainwater is popular in many countries of the world but it was never widely used in Bangladesh for drinking or cooking purpose. The survey findings say, in most cases, people do not know that rainwater is safe for drinking and can be used for a long period. It is also revealed from this study that most of the people know about arsenic contamination of tubewell water and it is harmful for health. Many people wrongly think that arsenic contaminated water is also harmful for bathing and washing. However, knowledge on remedial measures is limited and a few people have the idea that rainwater could be used for drinking and cooking purpose. As a result, the use of purified surface water is preferred as an alternative source.

It is also evident from the study that though some people recognised rainwater is safe to drink, their mental preparedness is not adequate to adopt it in their life. However, it is necessary to popularise the use of rainwater as an alternative source of drinking and cooking water. Mass awareness building and training programme on the storage procedures are required. When people will know that a scientific and cheap method is within their reach and it is for betterment of their health, it will positively change their attitude and practice towards multi-uses of rainwater.


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