Water scarcity is a pressing global issue that affects the lives of millions of people across various regions. While water is essential for life, it’s a precious resource not abundantly available everywhere.
Let’s peek into the lives of people in two distinct regions – the Thar Desert in Pakistan and parts of Bangladesh – to understand what it’s like to face the challenges of water scarcity.
Thar, once known as “the land of sand, camels, clasps, and mystics, ” is now barren, void of vegetation and water. Desert regions have dry climates with hot daytime temperatures and cooler nights. Rainfall is rare and hard to predict, which leads to water scarcity and tough living conditions.
Vegetation in the Thar Desert is limited and adapted to survive in the parched environment. You’ll find hardy desert plants like cacti, thorny bushes, and drought-resistant shrubs.
On the other hand, Cox’s Bazar, located in southeastern Bangladesh, is a breathtakingly beautiful coastal town known for having the longest natural sea beach in the world. It’s a popular tourist destination with its stunning coastline, golden sandy beaches, and azure waters. However, beneath this attractive illusion lie many challenges that the region faces.
With a dense population of over 160 million, Bangladesh experiences immense pressure on its water resources. The high demand for water for drinking and agriculture strains available supplies.
The influx of refugees escaping the violence and genocide in Myanmar has settled in Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh. That has also affected water availability and put a strain on natural resources.
Stretching across parts of Sindh, the Thar Desert is one of the world’s most densely populated desert regions. Surviving in this harsh desert climate is an ongoing struggle, mainly due to the scarcity of water. With infrequent yearly rainfall and rapid evaporation, groundwater becomes the main source of water for both households and farming.
Imagine not having clean water to drink or use for cooking, washing, or farming.The people of Thar don’t have to imagine such a scenario – for them, the reality is often limited access to clean and safe drinking water.
Water sources such as wells and hand pumps are open to contamination from pollutants and naturally occurring minerals. This leads to health issues such as water-borne diseases, worsening the already challenging living conditions.
To cope with water scarcity, communities in the Thar Desert have developed ingenious methods of water harvesting. Ancient techniques like building step-wells (baolis) and using traditional rainwater harvesting systems (tankas) help capture and store rainwater during the brief monsoon season.
But even with these creative solutions, there’s still not enough water to meet everyone’s needs.
Agriculture, a lifeline for many residents, is severely affected by water scarcity. Growing food is tough when there’s so little water. Farmers have a hard time ensuring their crops get enough water to grow.
Insufficient water supply leads to crop failures, affecting livelihoods and worsening poverty in the region. Farmers are forced to choose between growing food for sustenance or sale. That makes it difficult to earn a living and leads to food shortages.
Water scarcity has far-reaching effects on public health and hygiene. Limited water means compromised sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of diseases and infections. Basic practices like handwashing become a luxury, threatening the community’s well-being, especially children and older people.
While Bangladesh is known for its lush green landscapes and abundant water bodies, it faces its own set of water-related challenges. Frequent flooding, rising sea levels, and pollution contribute to the water woes faced by its population.
Bangladesh has a monsoon-driven climate, experiencing heavy rainfall during the wet season followed by dry periods. This leads to a cycle of feast and famine in terms of water availability, with floods during the monsoon followed by water scarcity during the dry season.
During the annual monsoons, extensive flooding contaminates water sources with pollutants and pathogens. The lack of proper sanitation infrastructure further compounds the issue, posing significant health risks to the population.
However, the influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, seeking safety and shelter in Cox’s Bazar, has further strained the region’s already limited water resources. The sudden increase in population has heightened the demand for water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.
The presence of a large number of people, coupled with improper waste management practices in the refugee camps, has contributed to environmental degradation and water pollution. Contaminated water sources pose health risks to both locals and refugees. Unregulated waste disposal from tourism-related activities and local communities has also led to water pollution.
That has also led to an outbreak of water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, typhoid, and E.coli infections leading to a severe effect on health and sometimes even death. Although totally preventable, these diseases continue to alter the lives of many.
In coastal areas of Bangladesh, rising sea levels cause saltwater to creep into freshwater sources. This intrusion has harmful effects on agriculture and limits the availability of potable water. Many residents are forced to rely on expensive or distant sources of clean water.
Urban centers like Dhaka face the dual challenge of rapid urbanization and increasing water demand. As the population increases, access to clean water becomes even scarcer, leading to water-borne diseases and public health crises.
Despite these challenges, both the Thar Desert and Bangladesh are witnessing innovative efforts to address water scarcity.
Communities are increasingly adopting modern rainwater harvesting techniques and water conservation practices to maximize the use of available water resources. Villagers collaborate to maintain and repair water storage structures, ensuring a more equitable distribution of water resources. These techniques help save water for times when it’s really needed.
In coastal regions of Bangladesh, desalination plants and advanced water treatment technologies are being explored to provide a reliable source of clean drinking water.
Non-governmental organizations and government agencies are working hand in hand to raise awareness about water conservation and hygiene practices. The NGO aims to empower individuals to take control of their water-related challenges by educating the community.
The Thar Desert and Bangladesh are a land of contrasts, where the beauty of the landscape is intertwined with the challenges of water scarcity and harsh living conditions. Despite these difficulties, the region’s inhabitants showcase remarkable courage, drawing upon traditional wisdom and innovative solutions to sustain their way of life.
As efforts continue to address water scarcity and improve infrastructure, the Thar Desert remains a witness to human adaptability and the high spirit of its people.