Besides, to prevent rivers around the urban centres from getting polluted, management of wastes is also very important as such polluted water enters the food chain causing serious diseases.
This was observed by experts at a workshop titled ‘Integrated support for sustainable urban environment’ organised by Bangladesh Association for Social Advancement (Basa) and Practical Action-Bangladesh at LGED auditorium in the capital yesterday.
“The biggest challenge we are facing today is decreasing quality and quantity of fresh water. Developing countries are feeling the effects intensively,” said Dr Mujibur Rahman, professor of civil engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
Authorities concerned are focusing on drinking water, but not on the management of water, he said, adding that water used to wash off human excreta is not recycled, rather it becomes contaminated with hazardous substances.
Chemical fertiliser being used in agriculture can now be replaced by manure made out of efficient management and processing of urine and human excreta and other wastes that contain ample nutrients, said Dr Rahman in his keynote presentation.
“However, we must be careful about the destruction of pathogenic bacteria of excreta. Those trying for such manure should check it through strong monitoring,” he added.
Practical Action Team Leader Iqbal Karim said the current status of environment is not encouraging in the countries like Bangladesh with dense population and high poverty, while solid waste management status, mainly in areas with low-income groups, is getting worse.
As a result, the most rivers around the urban centres carry wastes that eventually enter the food chain, he said, adding that thousands of children die every year due to water-borne diseases.
Besides, the progress of government’s goal of bringing the whole country under sanitation by 2010 is not satisfactory, he added.
Chief Engineer of the Department of Public Health Engineering Mustafizur Rahman said human excreta contains huge pathogenic bacteria which are threats to public health if exposed.
“While handling such excreta, awareness level should be high among the all concerned,” he added.
Speaking as chief guest, Unicef’s Water and Environmental Sanitation Chief Paul Edwards said the issue of sanitation in slum areas is getting worse.
Disease, mortality rate, water supply, education- all give a bad picture about these areas, he added.
Big cities like Dhaka and Chittagong attract huge investments, but municipalities face many challenges in case of sanitation and waste management, he said, adding that Bangladesh should give more importance to its sanitation issues.
Gazipur Municipality Chairman Mozammel Huq said with the cooperation of some NGOs, they have already started using solid wastes for making natural manure which is quite useful in his areas.
Practical Action Country Director Veena Khaleque also spoke at the workshop presided over by Basa Executive Director AKM Sirajul Islam.