World Water Day is being commemorated across the country today with the goal of raising public awareness about the importance of safe drinking water.
The presence of Arsenic contamination was first observed back in 1993. Later on, it was shown to be widespread in shallow tube wells in numerous parts of Bangladesh.
Consumption of arsenic-contaminated water resulted in significant health consequences for those exposed. Apart from arsenic contamination, the salinity of drinking water in the country's coastal regions has long been a concern. Due to the high salinity of tube well water, over 70% of coastal residents use pond water for drinking needs.
During the last 35 years, the region's water salinity has increased by 35% and continues to climb at an alarming rate each year. According to recent research by the World Bank, approximately 20% of women in coastal areas experience early miscarriages as a result of the dangerous effects of saline water, and 3% of children die prematurely. The terrible state of affairs further emphasizes the relevance of World Water Day in Bangladesh, more than in any other country.
Bangladesh government and numerous non-governmental organisations have launched a number of projects aimed at resolving the water crisis. Joining forces with this statewide initiative, 'PROBAHO' has been establishing safe water plants in an effort to alleviate the residents' clean water scarcity.
PROBAHO has installed 111 water purification plants in 21 districts of Bangladesh during the previous 12 years; additionally, PROBAHO has met the daily water needs of 273,000 people by supplying 565,000 liters of pure water. Regrettably, the nation's salinity-prone coastal districts, particularly Satkhira, face extreme water scarcity.
Stepping into its 13th year, Probaho, in line with the government's initiative to secure access to safe drinking water in remote places, plans to establish multiple water purification plants for marginalized communities, which will primarily serve the coastal region's need for pure water.
PROBAHO has been distributing purified water in arsenic-prone areas for more than a decade, including the tourist destination St. Martin's Island, the green city of Rajshahi, and the hilly areas of Bandarban. Istafunnesa, a 90-year-old woman from Amjhupi village in Meherpur district, described her predicament as follows: "Before this pure water project came to our area in 2011, it was extremely difficult for us to find arsenic-free drinking water." There were few sources of safe drinking water. We were forced to collect water from alternative sources such as rainwater or pond water, or from a two-kilometer-distance arsenic-free tube well. At the moment, we are protected from a variety of ailments due to our use of PROBAHO's pure drinking water."
The initiative's impact has been applauded and given immense recognition through the bestowal of various awards such as the prestigious 'Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Award (AREA)' in 2015 and "Bangladesh Innovation Award" 2018 by Bangladesh Brand Forum.
The initiative proudly supports Bangladesh government's aim to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) # 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing) and # 10 (Reduced Inequalities) to Ensure 100% population using safely managed drinking water services by 2030. Probaho's rich legacy of 13 years provides inspiration to move forth with pride and purpose, to ensure a safer today and tomorrow for all.