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No longer a pipe dream

The plastic pipe used for illegal supply of unclean water to Dhaka's biggest slum Korail Bosti, running along the right side of this alley. Inset, the dirty path of the pipe, which is broken and taped at places. Photo: Anja Burri/STAR

Publication Date : 27-02-2013


Dwellers of Dhaka's biggest slum will finally be given access to legal water supply


The 0.15 million inhabitants of Dhaka's biggest slum - Korail Bosti - are dependent on illegal and often dirty water that comes through a small, aboveground rubber tube.

Although slum dwellers pay double prices compared to the inhabitants of official Dhaka neighbourhoods, they often fall sick from drinking this water.

They suffer from diseases like diarrhoea, jaundice or cholera, slum resident Nurunnahar Begum told The Daily Star recently.

The illegal connection and pipe system is to blame for this. The water runs through a two centimetre thick pipe that curls through the labyrinthine and dirty slum paths.

In certain spots, the pipe is broken and taped. Bacteria can grow easily here, also because water in the aboveground plastic pipe gets warm quickly.

Still, this dirty water grants some people good earnings. They set up the illegal connections and charge the slum dwellers around 120 Bangladeshi taka (US$1.4) per family a month.

In order to keep running the illegal connections, the "water businessmen" have to pay their contact persons at Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa).

But all this misery is to end soon - Korail Bosti will finally get access to legal water connections. “A dream has come true,” said Nurunnahar Begum.

Together with the NGO Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK), the slum's residents have been fighting for this for the last six years, said the mother of six children.

Korail Bosti dwellers faced various challenges along the way. Naturally the sellers of the illegal water first opposed to the plans for legal connections in Korail Bosti.

They agreed only after rounds of negotiation with the Community Based Organisation of Korail (CBO) and DSK.

“Due to Dhaka Wasa's plans for a new water connection system, the illegal water business will become impossible soon,” explained Abdul Mannan, general secretary of CBO.

The water sellers were not alone in opposing to the legal water supply for Korail slum, though.

Two years ago, the inhabitants of the nearby Banani area had protested connecting the slum to the water network, said Akhil Chandra Das, project manager of DSK. They feared a shortage of water in their own area, he explained.

In the next week, 39 water connections will be put into operation in Korail Bosti. In total, Wasa has authorised 500 pipe connections for the slum where about 16,000 families live.

Approximately 30 families will now share one water connection. Each installation consists of a tap in a clean and concreted structure and a small tank where the water can be collected.

For the legal water, there is no need to pay extra money. Each family will have to pay around 50 taka per month, said Abdul Mannan.

The rest of the connections will be set up in the next months. Initially, the CBO has applied for 2,000 water connections, said Abdul Mannan.

According to Wasa, only 204 slums out of a few thousand have access to legal water in Dhaka today. The World Bank estimates that half of Dhaka's population live in slums.

*US$1=80.9 Bangladeshi taka


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