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Published on: 08/07/2013


The water supply in Bangladesh is primarily based on groundwater. Though Bangladesh is richly endowed with water resources on an annual basis, the availability is characterised by wide seasonal as well as spatial variability. According to Bangladesh' Water Development Board (BWDB) more than 170 of Bangladesh's 230 large and medium rivers are suffering from pollution and poor water management. Ground water being the dominant source for drinking is increasingly getting contaminated biologically and chemically. About 61 out of 64 regions in the country are affected by arsenic, putting about 30 million people at risk, necessitating a revisit to technological choices and alternatives. 

Table 1: Existing water supply technologies and their coverage

Water supply

Coverage of population in percentage

Shallow tube well


Piped water

10 %

Deep tube wells (manually operated)


Other: dug well, pond, shallow shrouded well, rainwater harvesting


Not known/undefined


Source: Government of Bangladesh, Ministry of Local Government

To mitigate arsenic contamination a range of technologies and interventions were implemented in WASH I such as renovation and repairing of existing water points and implementation of new deep tube wells, pond sand filters, rain water harvesting systems, deep set pumps, small scale piped water supply systems and so on. The selection among these was based on the geo-hydrological condition of the areas and community demand.  One set of options, arsenic mitigation through community or household filters proved difficult to sustain. Another option, piped water supplies provide convenience as well safe water.  However, the small piped water schemes are often difficult to implement and sustain in view of affordability and cost of operation and maintenance. Thus the preferred technology for combating arsenic contamination is the deep tube well where confirmed safe aquifers are available.

In addition to the arsenic-contaminated aquifers, BRAC WASH will work in areas of water stress. Technologies that will be applied include: desalinization plants, pond sand filters and rain water harvesting system. The project staff will give particular emphasis to operation, maintenance and overall sustainability of these facilities. A specific research call will be launched on mitigation of saline intrusion.

According to BRAC WASH II, a range of at least 5 technologies and interventions are available to assure the safe quality and quantity of water needed for drinking and cooking, sanitation and hygiene practices based on need and demand. The technologies/interventions among which a selection could be made are: (i) repair of existing water supplies such as bore-holes/pumps/platforms, (ii) installation of new deep tube wells, and (iii) small piped water schemes (iv) Pond Sand Filter  (v) Desalinization Plant (vi) Rain Water Harvesting  (vii) household and group arsenic removal technologies. 

Each of these has its own challenges with respect to sustainability, service to the very poor, costs and operation and maintenance.

An institutional arrangement with greater role of Local Government may be needed for installation, operation and maintenance of alternative water supply options and monitoring of water quality at the local levels. The degree of acceptance of these technologies by the people would among other things depend on costs and simplicity of operation and maintenance.

Each of the technologies has its own challenges with respect to sustainability, service to the very poor, costs and operation and maintenance. The project encourages incubation, innovation and adaptation to local contexts.

In BRAC WASH II, deep tube wells-- where they are appropriate--will be provided for clusters of 20 to 35 households. But where deep tube wells are not feasible due to lithology and the presence of arsenic in water, on the advice of project geologists, other alternative technologies will be implemented.  Other community-based options such as pond sand filters, water treatment plant will be considered on the basis of density of population, safe distance and socio-economic conditions. Piped water supply will be considered for 80 to 300 households where arsenic contamination is very severe and alternatives are not available, with additional capacity and management inputs based on the experience of WASH I.

The objective of the applied research project is to conduct a detailed desk review and analysis to identify, evaluate and recommend a range of appropriate low cost sustainable water supply technologies to address the key challenges of providing equitable, inclusive and access to drinking water supply in Bangladesh.

The study should geographically focus on saline and arsenic prone areas in the country with a differentiation for example in hydro-geological sub-areas within the saline prone area and/or within a arsenic prone area. The technology choice in general shall be determined by geographical and hydro-geological conditions, design service level, quality and sustainability of the source, environmental impacts, capital and O&M costs and simplicity of operation and maintenance appropriate to the decentralized delivery models. 

ASTRA project

The BRAC WASH II research call for for low-cost water technologies was won by PRACTICA Foundation, based in The Netherlands. Their project title is ASTRA, Aiding Sustainable Water Technology Realization in Arsenic and Salinity contaminated Areas of Bangladesh. 

ASTRA is set up as a detailed desk review and analysis study and developed a relevant water technological knowledge base enhanced with an online decision-support component (ASTRA Tool).

PRACTICA Foundation works with Delft University of Technology and WASTE advisers on urban environment and development, both based in The Netherlands; and with Practical Action Bangladesh.

The project ran until 1 August 2014 and had a budget of € 120,000 (US$ 154,000).

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