Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Lack of Water in Dhaka

Living in one of the most developed nations in the world, we take for granted that certain luxuries are always at our fingertips. We never want for water, electricity, heat, etcetera. Maybe we need to remember more often that the same is not true in many other parts of the world. Just recently in Bangladesh, hundreds of Dhaka citizens took to the streets to protest a water shortage, defying a ban on protests.

Eighty-six percent of drinking water in Dhaka is provided by groundwater – a supply that has diminished by three meters per year for the past few years. The shortage of water is caused by a lack of power to pump the water. A city official said, “How can we pump enough water while there is no electricity to run the pumps?”

Currently, the demand for water greatly outweighs the supply, “The Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority is supplying 1.50 billion liters of water a day against a demand of 2.25 billion liters.” And that is just the city, in the rest of the country only forty percent of the population has access to electricity. Country provinces have staged protests in the past because of a lack of electricity to assist in irrigation and farming.

The question I am struggling to answer, however, is how effective a protest is against something that cannot be controlled. The citizens have not been wronged by their city officials; rather they are victim to a degree of bad luck. The falling water table rates and a lack of rainwater should be the real targets of protestors’ wrath.

But other than protest and show their discontent, citizens are limited in what they are able to do to right their situation. Forced to stand in long lines with empty water jugs for a commodity that is usually readily available, Bangladeshis are bound to feel frustrated and impatient. And with these feelings of discontent, what are Dhaka citizens supposed to do other than organize and show their frustration? Unfortunately, the city has banned protests as a form of expression. Thus not only are Bangladeshis without water, they are without their right to assembly and free speech – something we so frequently forget we have in the United States.

Therefore my conclusion is that citizens of Dhaka should have the right to protest, but that protesting in this situation may not be the most effective means of achieving their goals. City officials have enlisted the army to handle distribution of the limited amount of water until they can find a solution. Perhaps the answer is for officials to find alternate sources of water. At least now, thanks to the protestors, officials know that any efforts on their part to provide water will be well-received.


Colleen Reding said...

I agree with your concern that the protests in Dhaka might be futile because it is a problem over which they have little control. However, I think the fact that you are writing about it and that their efforts have reached worldwide news, means that their cries have at least been heard....and that is a great start for the change they are trying to bring about!

Nicole Pedi said...

I think this situation is a perfect example where activists can get involved by implementing different creative techniques to address a problem rather than just staging protests. By protesting the government, the citizens are not strategically targeting the audience that actually has the ability to help them. It would be much more benneficial in their case to appeal to members of the UN maybe, so they can find ways to spread awareness about their situation in the global community. In this way, other countries may become interested in their cause and want to help. But even with that being said, it really is a problem when their free speech is being prevented. So I definitely agree with you in your conclusion that they should be allowed to protest, even if that method of non-violence is not necessarily the most strategic for their cause.

B Palmer said...

I think that the protests against the government are justified, because the government has a responsibility to provide for the most basic of needs (like running water). Although it is a twist of fate that it has not been raining as much as usual in that area, the government should have a means to provide its citizens with water even if there is a drought. Although this is complicated in a region that lacks electricity, I still feel that it is in the people's interest to stress their need for water and the government's responsibility to provide it. While it would also be advantageous to appeal to the UN or other organizations, the people need to push for the government, with foreign aid, to implement systems so that if a drought occurs again, people will not have to protest for access to water.

Kelsey Bristow said...

It is amazing the number of things we take for granted in this country and running water is probably one of the biggest, because we have never been without it! Sure, authorities in the Unided States may get upset when people march on Washington or show civil disobedience, but can you even imagine protesting for a lack of water?

I agree that protesting is probably not the best means of trying to change the situation, but really, what other choices do they have? In a country much less developed than our own, they are not available to many of the other resources we take for granted - quick mobilization over the internet, being able to ask for and often aquire monetary funds.

I think this should be an issue the international community should take up. Yes people are starving all over the world, but with technology and the amount of bottled water the US alone consumes, availability to water should be a civil liberty.