Urban Water Management Problems: Bangladesh Perspective

Chowdhury Mohammad Farouque and Md. Abu Noman and Kamal Hossain


The urban population worldwide has been forecasted to be huge; more than double from about 2.5 billion in 1994 to some 5.1 billion in 2025. Urbanization is rapidly increasing in developing countries. In 1970, 50% of the population lived in urban areas in these countries; this rose to 66% in 1994 and is forecast to be close to 80% by 2020 (United Nations, 1995). Cities in developing countries are experiencing shortages of sources for raw water, as well as the basic infrastructure for provision of urban household, industrial and commercial water supply. Sources for water and protection of water quality will indeed become more critical with more cases emerging of severe shortages that directly affect daily life.

Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, has become a mega city with a population of nearly 13 million, which is increasing at an annual rate of over 5%. Industrial, domestic and commercial wastes are polluting surface water, and groundwater in certain areas of the city also shows signs of both organic and inorganic contamination. Laws to prevent environmental pollution are rarely enforced. Overall service delivery is very poor.

Moreover, it seems to be a Herculean task to manage Dhaka’s urban poor in slum areas. About 25% of Dhaka’s population belongs to this category. One major problem in providing them with water and sanitation (WSS) services is the existing law that requires potential customers to hold the title of the land before they can gain access to WSS services. This is compounded by the large size of families living in individual huts in slum areas, which make it near impossible to provide them with individual metered connections, and the congestion of houses, which makes it difficult to install the necessary WSS infrastructure.

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