It is obvious that you will feel extremely uncomfortable when passing a dumpster because of the extremely disgusting smell coming from it. Well, imagine your house is located right on the bank of a polluted river. Everyday you will have to experience that horrible smell which similar to the smell of the sewage. When you wake up in the morning, that smell will be the first thing welcoming you, terrible isn’t it. Sadly, this is what the people living in Bangladesh’s Turag Rivet have to deal with daily. In order to know more about the living condition of these people, a REACH post-doc, Dr Sonia Ferdous Hoque has decided to visit this place and record what she has discovered.

According to her research, during the past few years, the rapid growth of the ready-made garment (RMG) industry has boosted the development of the country’s economic growth with significant income. For this reason, many poor people from the countryside has moved to Bangladesh’s capital city with a hope to find a stable job in these RMG factories which are located along the Turag River’s bank. However, come with the significantly high income is the price of the loss in the quality of the environment. The river is heavily polluted by the untreated waste discharged from the river.

Rapid industrial growth attracts the rural poor to Dhaka City, Bangladesh. Image: Nushrat Yeasmin/REACH

The place that Dr Sonia visited was the most polluted part of the river – Tongi Khal. It is later revealed that people living here does not have ability to acquire freshwater. Their main source of water that is used mainly for drinking is from the deep boreholes which are provided by the local government or the non-government organisation. These boreholes are quipped with electronic pumps drawing water from the aquifers to overhead storage tanks. Although the people have had the access to freshwater, they only use it for their drinking purpose, for other domestic need, they use the surface water from the river instead.

Women in low income settlements along the Turag River use the polluted water for washing dishes and laundry. Image: Nushrat Yeasmin/REACH

When take a look around the area, Dr Sonia see that there are many women and children gather around the river bank. The women wash the family’s clothes and dishes, while the children take a bath there. The water here are heavily polluted by the chemical from nearby factory, plastic bags and household waste. When asking, a woman said that they never use the river water during the dry season because it is “dirty, smelly and disgusting”. The reason why they use the water here instead of fresh water from the boreholes is because they find it take them quite a long time just to queue. The more disgusting part is that there are hanging toilet right on the river bank just beside the place where the women and children gathering.

Hanging toilets discharge human waste directly into the Turag River. Image: Nushrat Yeasmin/REACH

Improving water security for these low-salary communities expects measures to stop the indiscriminate discharge of untreated effluent into the stream. Gushing Treatment Plants (ETPs) are obligatory under existing laws; in any case, such environmental guidelines are poorly enforced. Absence of budgetary limit or hesitance to bear maintenance and operating costs, joined with a general disregard for natural corruption, are frequently the explanations for not having or running full limit ETPs. While diminishing contamination at source may improve water quality over the long term, with positive implication on human health, biological systems and farming, accomplishing universal drinking water security will likewise require new foundation, perhaps through development of boreholes and little small piped water plans.