It is not about a single tube-well that would go out of order and could be fixed soon. Imagine a village dependent on groundwater, where residents found out not 1, 10, or 20 but rather 2,000 tube-wells together have been rendered useless to the task of lifting water.
The situation can easily be estimated in the densely populated suburban upazila of Keraniganj in Dhaka.
Tube-wells with 400-feet deep pipes underground in nine unions in the upazila went out of order due to a fall in the water table, as well as its depletion. The situation has created havoc for the local people.
Locals said, almost 2,000 tube-wells of 115 villages of Jinjira, Kalendi, Shuvadda, Teghuria, Konda, Aganagar, Basta, Shakta and Rohitpur unions became useless in May, pointing to a drop in the groundwater level.
Abdul Hannan, former chairman of Rohitpur union, said water could not be extracted by almost 20 tube-wells in his area for more than the last two years.
Several ponds have dried up in the middle of this monsoon season. People fetch water from local mosque and madrasas for daily use and to feed their livestock, he added.
Sheikh Shamim Uddin of Shuvadda Union’s Ganderia village said, “I used to fill a tank on the roof my two-storied building using a submersible pump in only 30 minutes. Now it takes more than two hours to fill that.”
“I had to pay Tk 2,000 as electricity bill previously but it has increased to Tk 4,500 now,” he added.
Upazila parishad chairman Shahin Ahmed said his administration installed 48 submersible pumps with pipes of 4-inch diameter reaching 150 feet further down than the tube-wells that fell out of use as an emergency measure in June. The tube-wells have pipes that went 400 feet underground.
This was taken as a temporary step to circumvent the crisis, and so it proved. Some residents of the area enjoyed relief for some time, but within a month, most residents are back in the throes of a severe water crisis, Shahin said.
Deputy engineer for Keraniganj office of public health engineering department Shahabuddin said, “The 400-feet-deep tube-wells can no longer extract water as the groundwater level dropped beyond their reach by almost 4-5 feet.”
Shahabuddin is, however, quick to pin the blame on climate change. “The drop in groundwater level is due to climate change. Most of the important ponds in the area have dried up as well.”
He suggested local people, who want to install new tube-wells with their own initiative, should go for the pipe of 4-inch diameter, and depth of minimum 600 feet, as the groundwater level may have dropped further now.
Locals said installing each tube-well then would cost around Tk 150,000 and this is beyond their capacity.
Keraniganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Shah-e-Elid Mainul Amin said already 48 tube-wells with submersible pumps have been set up in 12 unions and 62 more will be installed soon.
People in dire need of immediate assistance demanded the authorities do something through whichever official body - be it the public health engineering department, UNICEF or whoever, to help them overcome the crisis.
State minister for power and energy Nasrul Hamid said, “Whereas water level in rivers and oceans are rising, groundwater level has been going down every year due to the climate change.”
The state minister insisted prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s administration has devised specific plans to face climate change.
“The government has already established 40-kilometre-long underground pipeline along the Dhaka-Mawa highway to fetch water from Padma river in Munshiganj, with the help of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).”
The capital’s water supply, including Keraniganj, could be well-served by such a pipeline, minister added.
The government has also extended the pipeline network from six nearby rivers successfully up to Babubazar in the capital to supply water.
Hamid also hoped that the Dhaka WASA (Water Supply Authority) will be able to supply water to Keraniganj by 2020, after finishing all the works to establish a pipeline network in the capital by this year.