Cry for safe water in 3 south-western districts:
5 million hit by salinity, arsenic contamination

Processionists parading SatkhiraThe small town of Satkhira resounded with full throated slogans as people in their thousands poured on streets demanding 'access to safe water'. They paraded streets carrying banners, joined a big rally at Shahid Abdur Razzak Park and submitted over a memorandum to the Prime Minister through the Deputy Commissioner for immediate steps to ensure supply of safe water in Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts, severely affected by salinity in surface water and arsenic contamination of groundwater. The Kendrio Pani Committee (Central Water Committee) a newly formed citizen's committee, Care, RVC Program and a local NGOUttaran-- jointly organised the programmes on Tuesday in observance of the World Water Day-2005. The Committee's president, Principal Shafiqul Islam, presided over the rally, addressed by, among others, lawyers Abdur Rahim, Syed Iftekhar Ali, and Mustafa Lutfullah, Prof. Abu Ahmed, Nazrul Islam and Abul Kashem. They said over 50 lakh people in nine upazilas of Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts in the south-western region of the country lack access to safe drinking water.

Safe water is becoming scarce day by day due arsenic contamination and salinity, they said. They regretted that successive governments did not take any plan to mitigate the problem. They bitterly criticised the governments as the area was not included in the 25-year National Water Management Policy. They said it is needless to say that safe water is a basic right of man but the government did not take any step to ensure this in the south-western districts though it is a long drawn problem. They said the Committee will launch tougher agitation if the government does not take appropriate steps to solve the problem. The speakers called for close co-operation between government agencies and NGOs in this regard.

The Pani (water) Committee has been formed to create awareness among people and launch a social movement to ensure safe water in the region. The rally over, a big procession paraded the streets up to the collectorate building. The committee leaders handed over the memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner to press their five-point demand which also includes planned shrimp cultivation to check intrusion of saline water into cultivable lands and steps to re-excavate Kobodak, Betna, Shalika, Makancha and Chuna rivers in the area.

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