Water, at any time

The water selling ATM booths from DWASA will soon be found all across Dhaka city. Md Amjad Hossain writes

City dwellers of Dhaka face extreme difficulties while trying to get pure drinking water. The situation intensifies during summer. Alternatives to water from the pipeline is scarce asrivers around Dhaka have become severely polluted, and the underground water level is depleting further every year.

Due to the polluted water, eventually the capital’s lone authority to deal with the water supply-Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority- itself encourages people to boil tap water before drinking,to prevent becoming affected from all forms of waterborne diseases.

A recent survey showsthat people of Dhaka city wastearound Tk 67 crore worth of natural gas per day just to purify drinking water!

‘The water we get from WASA is not drinkable. And that is why my husband purchases bottles of water every day when he comes back from office,’ says Shahnira Sajani, aconsumer of Dhaka WASA inthe Jatrabari area.

In this situation, the launch of DWASA’s two water ATM booths is definitely a significant development. Launched in October of 2016, with the support of a Netherlands-based company named Drink Well, the booths sell pure water at a minimal charge. The initiative was taken to provide pure drinking water to the city dwellers, say concerned DWASA officials.

IMG_20170716_141151

For getting the services from the ATM based water collection centres, one needs to get an ATM card issued against his/her national identity and two copies of photos. For every litre of water one has to pay Tk 0.40, while the ATM card should have at least Tk 200 as minimum balance. At the booths, one can also recharge the card by paying money.

While talking about the price, Year khan, executive engineer of DWASA, says, ‘Our goal was to serve people for free as we didn’t charge money during the initial stage, but when we got information that few people are doing business through this ATM, we started charging some money.’

Aminul Islam, a shopkeeper at Fakirapool, says, ‘I come to the collection area every day to collect pure water. The megacity needs more water ATM which will be a blessing for 17 million people.’

Asad Mir, a college student of Fakirapool area, shares, ‘I cannot use this water after 24 hours due to high amount of iron in it.’

When this allegation was shared with him, Year Khan says, ‘We havetested the water several times in the laboratory. But we have never found any problems.’ He claims that the problem could be in the jar and other containers that the consumers are using to hold water. ‘Maybe they are not washing them regularly,’ says Khan.

Sabuj Sarkar, operation-in-charge of Fakirapool water ATM booth, shared that the booth is open from 6:00am till 10:00pm. ‘We also have IPS connection to support uninterrupted service. And the range of consumers here is gradually increasing,’ he says.

IMG_20170716_140018

Year Khan informed that the first water ATM booth was installed in 2016 at Fakirapool, which wasfinanced by Sohail and Brothers, a Bangladeshi company. The second onewas installed inMughdha in May this year, sponsored by WIST Inc, an USA based NGO.

Sabuj shared that everyday about 10,000 litresare sold from Fakirapool ATM booth and 1,000-1,500 litres in Mughdha. ‘We have 1100 registered customers in Fakirapool and 300 in Mughdha and the amount is increasing,’Sarkar adds.

Year Khan informed that they are planning to set up more than 100 water ATM machine throughout the city,and four of them are already under construction. City dwellers will find a water ATM booth in Basabo within next few days, he says.

Urban planning experts, however, criticised DWASA for such ‘business activity’ instead of providing services.

IMG_20170716_135315

Institute of Planners general secretary Professor Akter Mahmud said that he finds it totally unacceptable that DWASA took the plan of exploiting commonfolks for its new business after failing in its statutory obligation to supply water to its consumers as the monopoly water utility.

He advised DWASA to develop its water supply networks instead of taking such business ventures.