[op-ed snap] Ripples of reform in Dhaka


Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Inadequate drainage and sewerage networks across Indian megacities and lessons that can be learnt from other megacities across the world


Dhaka’s water management

  1. Dhaka, with a population of 12.5 million, is the sixth-largest megacity in the world
  2. Dhaka has one of the worst vulnerabilities to water of any urban setting in the world
  3. It is handling it in an inclusive manner which is also financially sustainable

Similarities between Indian megacities & Dhaka

  1. Dhaka’s water challenges are similar to what we experience in our megacities
  2. Having polluted its rivers with industrial effluents and municipal sewage, the city remains heavily (80 percent) dependent on groundwater for its drinking water needs
  3. The water-table is at least 600 feet deep and it amounts to water mining from a resource that has accumulated over thousands of years
  4. It has resulted in a rapid decline in Dhaka’s water table at the rate of about two to three meters per year for close to three decades

Transformation of water usage scenario

  1. Dhaka’s water scenario transformation began in 2005
  2. In that year, the Government of Bangladesh accorded high priority to safe water and appropriate sanitation as part of its National Poverty Reduction Strategy
  3. The Asian Development Bank rose to the occasion by offering support to the Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) to carry out reforms in the water services sector and build its capacity
  4. In 2007, the piped network for distribution of water in Dhaka was in a state of disrepair with innumerable (mostly unidentified) leakages and illegal connections
  5. Loss of water due to physical leakages in the pipes was more than 50 percent
  6. Only half of the water supplied to the networks was ever billed and only 62 percent of the water bills were actually collected
  7. Dhaka has managed to invest enough in its water distribution infrastructure to raise the coverage of water connections in the non-slum areas to close to 100 percent
  8. The replacement of the old pipes has resulted in reduced physical water losses in the range of 2-14 percent at commission
  9. Trenchless technology for laying pipes allowed faster execution and reduced inconvenience to the residents, so commonly observed in trench digging works in most Indian cities

Measures to maintain the momentum

  1. DWASA has built a state-of-the-art training facility to organise regular training programmes for its staff to use smart water technologies to sustain the efficiency gains
  2. To ensure financial sustainability, there has been tariff increase of 5 per cent every year since 2007
  3. DWASA has successfully completed computerisation of the entire databases of approximately 3,00,000 connections, and monthly water bills are issued from this database
  4. A citizens’ grievance redressal centre has been established in each zone to resolve complaints regarding the services

A unique feature of the system

  1. Households living in slums (25 percent of the population) are also being connected with a piped network and are paying for water without any cross-subsidy
  2. A noteworthy development is that the slum residents organized themselves into community-based organizations and ensured that all water bills were paid on time
  3. The emphasis on connecting the slums demonstrated that the urban poor are a viable market to be taken seriously

Lessons for India

  1. Highly inadequate drainage and sewerage networks, and lack of sewage treatment continue to pose major challenges in megacities in India
  2. In Delhi, those not connected to the distribution network do not benefit from lifeline water since they remain at the mercy of the “official” tankers
  3. Dhaka slum dwellers’ monthly usage of water puts them in lifeline consumption, a level that attracts the lowest tariffs, allowing the utility to have a pro-poor and inclusive approach
  4. Indian utilities can also adopt this approach

Way forward

  1. The shift from groundwater to surface water will have to be planned and implemented
  2. It will be a long haul, but as Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher, put it, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.
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KARAN PIPERWALCivilsdailyRithisha Recent comment authors
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please add the source of the article as well, like you used to before. thanks a ton


We will provide the links. no issues. Some UI upgrades in progress.


Kindly spare the CD team for these small things… you can yourself easily search on internet using its title…Anyway the aritcle is from Indian Express.