Sushela, a 44-year-old housewife who lives at the Tildanga Union of Dacope, Khulna. Waking up before dawn every day, Sushela walks to a water plant about five kilometers away to collect fresh drinking water for her four-member family. She returns home at noon. Without this strenuous journey through an uneven path, there will be no water for cooking and drinking.
“Though the walk itself takes two hours, I have to wait for more than two hours as the queue becomes so long to collect the water,” said Sushela with deep frustration. This is a daily routine for thousands of people in Tildanga Ward No. 4, 5, 6, 7 and many unions in the coastal district.
The scarcity of drinking water is acute as freshwater aquifers are not available at suitable depths and the surface water contains high saline in this union. Households are mainly dependent on a few water technologies and sources including Rain Water Harvesting (RWH), Pond Sand Filters (PSF) and pond water for drinking purposes. But the technologies are expensive and barely affordable for the poor community. Thus, they compelled to drink poisoned water from the local sources.
During the devastating Cyclone Aila in 2009, almost all the freshwater sources in Dacope were destroyed. In most places, the pond is not useable for drinking purpose because of salinity in the shallow and deep aquifer levels. The embankments are eroded and groundwater sources are flooded. Therefore, about 60 percent of pond contaminated by high saline.
Due to the impact of climate change, the daily struggles of thousands like Sushela are being intensified. Over the past 25 years, salinity incursion in Dacope has increased by about 26 percent and the affected areas are expanding each year. As the water sources are drying up and demands are increasing, women like Sushela are forced to walk further and further to collect drinking water for their family.
Suitable groundwater is absent in most of the places of Tildanga Union, and quite expensive as well. Pond Sand Filter (PSF) is a promising source of water supply for the affected community. But the maintenance and management cost are very high. Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) system appears to be a suitable option both at household and community levels. Considering the overall situation, Approaching Community Empowerment (ACE) project of ADRA Bangladesh distributed 38 water tanks for the unprivileged community of Tildanga Union.
Sushela is the member of the ACE project since 2017. She has been selected as a beneficiary of the water tank through the participatory approach of the community. “I couldn’t drink enough water to mitigate my thirst for a very long time. Now, I can store enough water in the water tank and can drink as much as I need,” Sushela was crying in joy when she got the water tank.