Bangladesh calls in army to distribute water

Women and children wait in a queue to collect drinking water from a supply water line in the outskirts of Dhaka March 29, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh deployed troops to distribute drinking water on Wednesday among the capital’s more than 12 million people, after lawmakers had warned that growing public discontent over a water crisis could lead to unrest.

A falling water table and lack of power to run water pumps have caused a serious shortage of drinking water in Dhaka, with hundreds of residents marching in the streets daily with empty pitchers and demanding government action.

“How can we pump enough water while there is no electricity to run the pumps,” said an official of the Dhaka water and sewage authority (WASA).

“Many pumps remain shut or cannot operate up to their capacities because of a shortage of power,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The WASA says it is now able to supply only 1.8 billion litres of water in the capital a day, against a demand of 2.4 billion litres, due to frequent power cuts and a fall in groundwater levels.

A power official said the daily shortage of electricity in the city had soared to 1,500 megawatts because of lack natural gas to run power plants.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Anis Ahmed and Alex Richardson