The government is working to ensure safe drinking water and sanitation for all, which is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by 2030, said people involved in the two city corporations in Dhaka and the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector.
"In total 98% of the people in the country, as well as 70% in the slum areas, currently get safe drinkable water. Unprecedented success has been achieved in the water supply, sanitation and hygiene sector," said Md Tazul Islam, minister for local government, rural development and cooperatives, at a function to celebrate the country's achievement in the WASH sector on the occasion of the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh's independence.
"The government is working on a plan keeping in view the targets of SDG-2030 and Bangladesh Vision 2041," said Md Tazul Islam, who was the chief guest at the programme jointly organised by the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives and WaterAid at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the capital on Saturday.
The minister said preliminary work has been started on the National Water Grid Line to meet the water demand of the country.
Regarding the canals in the city, the minister said, "In Bangkok, 15% of people are using their canals, but we are not able to do so despite having so many canals in Dhaka. The canals are losing their existence due to illegal occupation and pollution."
"Fifty more of our canals will be recovered very soon. Places like our Hatirjheel are getting ruined due to mismanagement. Fishes cannot survive in this lake's water, and even iron will melt in it," he added.
At the event, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Md Atiqul Islam said "The DNCC is working with all to raise public awareness about safe water, sanitation and hygiene. The Dhaka North City Corporation has already completed the construction of 48 environment-friendly and hygienic public toilets."
"For the first time in the country, the work of power generation from waste is in the final stage under the initiative of Dhaka North City Corporation."
He also said the water purification system should be strengthened by setting up regional faecal sludge treatment plants in the city.
The Dhaka North mayor also urged the city dwellers to install modern septic tanks and soak wells in their homes. He said the owners of buildings with rainwater harvesting facilities will be given a 10% holding tax rebate.
Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said, "The demand for water in Dhaka is being met through pumps as it has been done in 2009. There has been no improvement in so many years and the water layer has dropped down more than double. Now we should not think of anything other than surface water."
"We are working to recover the canals since we were put in charge. However, we are facing a lot of difficulties as these canals have been occupied for so many years."
The Dhaka South mayor also said, "95% of the houses in Dhaka city do not have a septic tank and 99.99% of the houses do not have a soak well but the homeowners will be forced to take initiatives to set them up."
The mayor also criticised the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) for failing to make much progress in meeting the needs of the water and sewerage system in the capital in recent days.
However, Taqsem A Khan, managing director of the Dhaka WASA, said, "We can meet 100% of the demand for water in Dhaka and get 100% revenue, which many cities in the world cannot."
"By 2027, we will bring 95% of the sewerage system of Dhaka in our lines. We are 10-15 years ahead of other cities in the world in terms of sewerage and safe water supply," he added.
Helaluddin Ahmed, senior secretary at the Local Government Division, presided over the function. Md Saifur Rahman, superintending engineer at Department of Public Health Engineering, Hasin Jahan, country director of WaterAid Bangladesh, Md Khairul Islam, South Asia regional director of WaterAid, and Prof Dr M Firoz Ahmed among others, also spoke at the programme.