“There wasn’t a drop of fresh water in sight”
Understanding the importance of clean drinking water
by Robin Chandra Das (www.friendship.ngo)
I joined Friendship in 2013 with the aim of serving humanity. When I was told that I would be working on the installation of a water treatment plant, it seemed to me a rather ordinary task. In my home district of Mymensingh, there is no shortage of safe drinking water. It’s not too difficult to simply reach out and drink a glass of pure water at any time.
One day I was sent to collect water samples in the coastal areas of Padmapukur and Gabura. The southern sun was beating down and, for the first time in my life, I experienced what it was like not to have access to fresh drinking water. I felt like I was shrivelling up like a raisin under the sun. I was absolutely parched and there was not a drop of fresh water in sight. It was then that I truly understood the value of clean drinking water and the real importance of our work.
All our lives we have been taught that rivers flow towards the sea. However, coastal area inhabitants know only too well that as the sea rises during high tide, salty sea water rushes back upstream for several kilometres. As a result, the river system close to the Bay of Bengal is saline (just like any other marine ecosystem). This can lead to the contamination of local fresh water supplies. Salt water from the river seeps into the river bank, and from there into the underground water that supplies tube wells.
The problem is further compounded by the increased frequency of cyclones. Not only is the loss of property and life immediately felt, but the cyclones also drive tidal waves from the sea far into the mainland, often rendering water sources unusable. Increased salinity in these regions is a long-term danger that has been slowly poisoning the local people over many years.
Once the salinity of water surpasses 1 ppt (part per trillion) it is no longer considered safe for domestic use. But in these areas, people have no choice but to drink water whose salinity exceeds that limit.
With the absence of clean water comes disease. A government survey conducted in 2012 found that 76% of children living in coastal areas were affected by diarrhoea, dysentery and skin diseases. As a result, we see that women over here are glad of the opportunity to access clean water, even if it means walking several kilometres each day and standing in line at the water treatment plants built by Friendship.
In this way, through my work with Friendship, I have learned that water, truly, is life.
Robin Chandra Das works for Friendship’s water treatment plants. Our 6 water treatment plants deliver fresh drinking water to more than 80,000 people in the coastal area of Bangladesh.
Help us continue to bring clean drinking water to Bangladesh’s marginalised men, women and children.