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Comprehensive programme to fend off arsenic menace - 23 Nov 02

The government has undertaken a comprehensive programme to mitigate the arsenic problem and ensure countrywide supply of safe drinking water, reports BSS. Official sources said the programme has been taken up in view of the fast growing demand for safe drinking water due mainly to rapid urbanisation, population growth and increased public awareness against arsenic contamination of water.

The Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives through the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) is implementing various projects of this programme both in urban and rural areas. Four city corporations, 257 municipalities and all rural areas are being covered by this programme, Ministry sources said.

They said safe drinking water is now being supplied in 91 municipalities and city corporation areas while the scheme is under implementation in 73 municipalities. Another 94 municipalities will be covered by the programme soon. LGED installed 12,10,000 tubewells for safe drinking water and distributed 30,74,000 low-priced sanitary latrines in rural areas last year.

At present, 29 projects at a cost of Taka 4.13 billion (413 crore) have been undertaken and four of them have already been completed while the remaining 25 are still under implementation, officials said. Meanwhile, a total of 18,650 tubewells have been installed while 70,000 sanitary latrines, 25 deep tubewells, 129.1 kms of pipeline, five overhead water tanks and three water treatment plants have been built. Under the technical assistance projects, water in 14,491 tubewells out of the total 51,001 tested in 411 upazilas of 61 districts were found contaminated by arsenic.

As many as 170 deep tubewells were installed to measure the arsenic level in the underground water. As many as 5,516 shallow tubewells and 679 deep tubewells are being installed while 679 Pond-Sand-Filters are being constructed in the country under the government initiative.

The government has already constructed two arsenic eradication plants in Satkhira and Manikganj towns and undertaken a project with own funds to supply pure drinking water from 4,400 ponds by removing arsenic and salinity. Meanwhile, the Action Research Programme has taken up projects in four upazilas for collection and preservation of rainwater as an alternative source of pure drinking water.

Besides, DANIDA under its technical assistance programme is carrying out another such project in 11 upazilas of eight coastal districts, the sources said. The government has also undertaken several other projects in the light of the recommendations made in the International Conference on Arsenic Mitigation here in January last. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia inaugurated the conference.

However, the daily supply of pure water in Dhaka city is 1.52 billion (152 crore) litres now against the demand of 1.60 billion litres. The total supply was 1.14 billion litres till October last year while the rest is being provided by the Sayedabad Water Treatment Plant. This plant was installed at a cost of Taka 5.84 billion, Taka 1.66 billion less than the original allocation, the sources said, adding its second phase has already been undertaken for implementation at a cost of Taka 2.65 billion, the sources said. Chittagong WASA installed two deep tubewells, two pump houses and completed other physical construction in the port city at a cost of Taka 1.59 billion last year.

The Third Interim Water Supply Project and extension of the Mohra Plant are under process. Besides, the implementation of the Maduna Ghat Water Supply Project is in progress, the sources said. - BSS



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