Groundwater level plunges in Bangladesh

Dhaka is being milked dry. Of late, there has been a rapid decline in the city's groundwater table. In fact, it has depleted by over 20 m during the past six years

 
By Pinaki Roy
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Playing with fire: another new (Credit: Reuters)dhaka is being milked dry. Of late, there has been a rapid decline in the city's groundwater table. In fact, it has depleted by over 20 metres (m) during the past six years.

This alarming trend was revealed in a study conducted by the Bangladesh government. Titled 'Survey and Monitoring Project for the Development of Minor Irrigation ', it reveals that the yearly rate of fall in the city's groundwater level is two metres. The nationwide survey specifies that the centre of Dhaka is the worst affected area.

"To a great extent, the city is covered with concrete. This prevents percolation of rainwater for recharging aquifers," points out geo-morphologist Mollah Azfarul Haque, assistant director (geology) in the irrigation department. Haque's views are corroborated by Iftekharul Alam, a consultant in the project: "Major parts of the city's surface are covered by concrete. The water table has not declined so much in nearby low-lying and green areas of the city."

It has been found that on December 31, 2002, the groundwater table was 46.24 m in Dhaka. It was 45.54 m in November and 45.12 m in October 2002. In 2001, the average water table of the city was below 42 m. The figure for 1996 was 26 m. Bangladesh's irrigation department officials aver that the country's rapidly increasing population is taking its toll on the water table.

The survey was carried out all over Bangladesh to ascertain the quality and quantity of water used for irrigation. Experts say that the two water treatment plants of the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (wasa) can meet only 20 per cent of the total demand for water in the city. This is generated from surface water sources. For the remaining 80 per cent, wasa falls back on groundwater. It is extracted by sinking deep tubewells.

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