Vol. 5 Num 400 Tue. July 12, 2005  

Water crisis deepens in Sylhet city
No early solution in sight: Private suppliers doing brisk business

There is no possibility of an end to the severe water crisis in Sylhet city in next two to three years.

The Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) can not supply even 50 per cent of the daily demand for 1, 07,52,500 gallons.

A large number of city dwellers are now compelled to buy water from the three private suppliers and even vendors, who charge Tk 40 to 50 per 20 gallons.

People in Mirabazar, Barutkhana, Ambarkhana, Eidgah and Sheikhghat areas said they spend Tk 600 to 1000 every month to buy water from private suppliers. They are doing this for long.

Many others in Zindabazar, Bandarbazar and Kalighat commercial areas made the same complaint.

The low income groups are mainly dependent on traditional sources like shallow tube wells, the Surma river and a few ponds that still exist in the city.

The problem is getting worse day by day as the SCC did not take up any major programme in the last few years to augment the supply while the city area and its population increased.

The Nine Town Water Supply and Sanitation Project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which included Sylhet city, contributed insignificantly to solve the problem. The project taken up in 1995 ended three years ago.

A Tk 38 crore project prepared by the SCC got pre-ECNEC approval three months ago but its funding has not yet been finalised.

"I hope it (the project) will soon get ECNEC approval", Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) Mayor Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran told The Daily Star yesterday.

"If things go well we will get a scope to resolve the crisis", he said without giving a time frame.

If the project gets ECNEC approval and work starts this year, it will still take two to three years to increase the supply, SCC sources said.

The Mayor agreed with this correspondent that SCC now supplies only 50 per cent of water needed daily and that there is no possibility of ending the crisis in 2-3 years.

The Tk 38 crore project includes setting up of a water treatment plant, extension of supply lines in new and old areas and sinking of more deep tube wells.

Besides inadequate supply, there is a huge system loss due to worn out supply lines at many places and unauthorised connections by a section of people.

There are also allegations that a large number of residents use electric motors to take water from supply lines. The SCC sources said, on an average, they get about 20 such complaints a month but no effective measure could be taken yet to stop it. This deprives many genuine subscribers from water in their domestic supply lines.

Some residents talking to this correspondent said repair of supply lines and stopping use of motors could ease the situation at least in certain areas but the authorities so far did nothing in this regard.

The SCC could not yet supply water in 5 out of its 27 wards.

Water supply pipelines are yet to be laid in wards 25, 26 and 27. Water is yet to be supplied in wards 7 and 18 even two years after pipeline laying, residents there said.

Pitchers wait for hours for water from a tap of Sylhet City Corporation in rail station area. PHOTO: STAR