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G r o u n d W a t e r D e pl e t i o n a n d E n v i r on m e nt a l C o n s e q u e n c e s : A C a s e S t u d y o n D ha k a C i t y

Abstract

The capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka, has one of the fastest urban growth rates
among the developing countries. As surface water bodies near the city are becoming
increasingly polluted and costly to purify, public water utilities and other water users
are turning to groundwater as potential source of supply. Groundwater grants about
87% of the total water supply of the city. Due to rapid increase in population the
demand of water for the city has raised from 150 mld in 1963 to 2100 mld in 2005.
Thereby, groundwater abstraction in the city has increased more than 700% from 1960
to 1995. But the rate of recharge to the aquifer is decreasing with increase in
pavement area due to rapid urbanization. In this conflicting situation, the groundwater
table in the city area is decreasing significantly putting the aquifer in vulnerable
conditions. The rate of decline of water level is 2-3m per year. Hence, the aquifer is
vulnerable to drying of the wells, contamination of water and possible land subsidence.
This study is aimed to understand the urbanization pattern and its impacts on the
groundwater of the city. Hydrographs from different parts of the city specify the
increasing trend of drop of water level throughout the city and indicate higher
vulnerability of groundwater in the central city area where both the vertical and lateral
recharge is insignificant and the withdrawal rate is higher than the other parts of the
city since the area is densely populated as well as commercial. Therefore, the study
has intended to put forward some measures such as reduction of high dependency on
groundwater, conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water, rainwater harvesting,
preservation of wetlands in and around the city, artificial recharge, reduction of
wastage; that may contribute effectively in the sustainable utilization of groundwater
resource.

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Ground Water Depletion and Environmental Consequences:


A Case Study on Dhaka City

1.0 Introduction
Dhaka has become a mega city with a population of nearly 12.5 million, which is
increasing at an annual rate of over 5% (Khondoker, 2006).This growth rate of urban
population is also higher than many other mega cities of the world. It is expected that
the population of Dhaka will be more than 20 million by the year 2020 (BBS, 2002).
Being one of the largest mega cities of the world, Dhaka is facing continuous problems
of potable water over the last few decades. Due to increasing population and industrial
growth the demand for water is rising rapidly (Bhuiyan et al, 2007). In 2005 Dhaka
WASA supplied 1600 million litres per day (mld) against the demand of 2100 million
litres per day (mld) from 421 deep tube well. In 2020 the water demand will be 4100
mld (Azam, 2006).At present Dhaka WASA can fulfill less than 70% of the total
demand (Haque, 2003). The production capacity of Dhaka WASA is 1860.50 mld where
1528.87 mld is produced from groundwater and 243.47 mld from surface water
(DWASA, November 2007). As surface water bodies near the city are becoming
increasingly polluted and costly to purify, public water utilities and other water users
are turning to groundwater as potential source of supply. Systematic groundwater
development started in Dhaka city from 1949 and available records show that
groundwater abstraction in the city has increased more than 700% from 1960 to 1995
(Ahmed et al, 1998). As like Dhaka no other mega cities of the world are such
dependent on groundwater. It creates a huge pressure on the water table1 of Dhaka.
The level of groundwater table of upper aquifer (<170 m depth) is declining about 2-3
meter in every year (DWASA, 2006). As a result in many areas of Dhaka city there is a
serious water crisis during the dry season. Due to intensive extraction of groundwater
there is a possibility of land subsidence and the ecological balance may also be
adversely affected. Moreover, lack of adequate sewerage system, direct industrial
disposals and inadequate management of solid waste disposal results groundwater
contamination. Therefore this study will attempt to explore on the relation between
urbanization and groundwater depletion of Dhaka city, the impacts of urbanization on
groundwater and also find out some proposals useful in sustainable groundwater
management.

1.1 Objectives of the Study


The major objectives of this research work are as follows.

• To identify the relation between urbanization and groundwater depletion of Dhaka city.
• To know the impacts of urbanization on groundwater of Dhaka city.
• To find alternative options for the sustainable utilization and conservation of
groundwater that may cope with rapid urbanization.

1.2 Methodology
The entire study is conducted on the basis of secondary data. For this study, necessary data
and information were collected from various secondary sources, such as:
•The objective of this research work is to identify the relation between urbanization and
groundwater depletion of Dhaka city. Data on Urbanization pattern of Dhaka has been
collected from relevant books, Journals and BBS.
•Urbanization, source of water, water supply and demand and groundwater depletion are
closely inter-linked to each other. Data on water supply and demand has been collected
from the annual and monthly report of DWASA.

1
the surface below which rocks are saturated with water

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• Different organizations such as: DWASA, Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB),
Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) mainly collects groundwater
level data regularly from their monitoring and observation wells. For this study
groundwater level data has been collected from Bangladesh Water Development Board
(BWDB) and Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC).
• The impacts of urbanization on groundwater of Dhaka have been identified from relevant
study conducted by DWASA, BWDB, and IWFM-BUET. Apart from these, relevant essays
from various journals, websites and newspaper reports are also studied to identify the
impacts of urbanization on groundwater of Dhaka city.

2.0 Study Area


Dhaka city possesses a rapid urbanization. The population explosion is higher than spatial
expansion. It is very difficult to serve the large population of Dhaka with adequate water
supply. Due to large scale abstraction of groundwater, the aquifer of the Dhaka city is more
vulnerable than any other areas of the country. That's why, Dhaka city has been selected
for the study. To analyze the groundwater level of the city eight locations i.e. Gulsan,
Khilgaon, Sutrapur, Lalbagh, Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Dhanmondi and Tejgaon are
selected.
Dhaka is situated between latitudes 23°42' and 23°54'N and longitudes 90°20' and
90°28'E. The city is bounded by the rivers Buriganga to the south, Turag to the west, Balu
to the east and Tongi Khal to the north. The city has three distinct seasons: winter
(November-February), dry with temperature 10° to 20°C; the pre-monsoon season
(March-May), some rain and hot with temperature reaching up to 40°C; and the monsoon
(June-October), very wet with temperatures around 30°C. Dhaka experiences about 2,000
mm rain annually, of which about 80% falls during the monsoon (Banglapedia, 2006).

2.1 Topography
The topography of the city area is irregular with complicated contour lines. The elevation of
the city area ranges from 1.5 to 13 metres. The highest land of the city is located at Mirpur
with an elevation of 13 m while the lowest is in the floodplain of the Buriganga River in
western part of Mohammadpur and Lalbagh areas. For most of the parts of the city of
Dhaka the land level is almost flat and low relief with many depressions here and there.
Most areas of Dhaka city remain considerably above the highest levels of flood in ordinary
season of inundation. However, the central and northern newly encroached build up areas
of the city on the elevated terrace lands of the city is a rolling uneven surface frequently
interrupted by numerous depressions and low lands characterised by abandoned channels
(Asaduzzaman, et al, 1997). The major part of the city mostly lies between 6 to 8m above
the sea level (Ahmed, 1962). In the vicinity of the Dhaka city, the elevation is about 4.5 m
(15 feet) above the sea level (Rizvi, 1970). The Central Business District (CBD) and down
town areas of Dhaka city is developed on the land with levels of 6 to 8 m (Asaduzzaman, et
al, 1997).

2.2 Geology
Dhaka is situated at the southern tip of a Pleistocene terrace, the madhupur tract. Two
characteristic geological units cover the city and surroundings, viz Madhupur Clay of the
Pleistocene age and alluvial deposits of recent age. The Madhupur Clay is the oldest
sediment exposed in and around the city area having characteristic topography and
drainage. The major geomorphic units of the city are: the high land or the Dhaka terrace,
the low lands or floodplains, depressions and abandoned channels. Low lying swamps and
marshes located in and around the city are other major topographic features. The
subsurface sedimentary sequence, up to the explored depth of 300m, shows three distinct
entities: one is the Madhupur Clay of the Pleistocene age, characterised by reddish plastic
clay with silt and very fine sand particles. This Madhupur Clay unconformably overlies the

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dupi tila formation of the Plio-Pleistocene age, composed of medium to coarse yellowish
brown sand and occasional gravel. The incised channels and depressions within the city are
floored by recent alluvial floodplain deposits and are further subdivided into Lowland
Alluvium and Highland Alluvium (Banglapedia, 2006).

2.3 Hydrogeology
The Dupi Tila sands aquifer is the main source of water in Dhaka city. Madhupur Clay
overlies the aquifer with a thickness of 8 to 45m (averages 10m). The aquifer varies in
thickness from 100 to 200m (averages 140m). Groundwater occurs at a depth of 25 to 30m
in the central part of the city. In the periphery the groundwater table lies at a depth of 15 to
20m. Under the present conditions the peripheral rivers act as sources of recharge as the
Dupi Tila sands are exposed along the riverbeds. Other sources of recharge are vertical
percolation of rain and flood water, leakage from water mains and the sewer system and
seepage from standing water bodies within the city (Banglapedia, 2006).

2.4 Legal Aspects


In Bangladesh there exist some ordinance, rules, act and policy for the conservation of
groundwater either directly or through indirect way i. e. assist in groundwater recharge,
provide guidelines for sustainable utilization of groundwater. They are mentioned below.
2.4 1 Ground Water Management Ordinance, 1985
According to the Ground Water Management Ordinance, 1985 (XXXV11 of 1985) the
minimum distance between two wells would be:
(i) 2500 feet between two DTWs
(ii) 1700 feet between a DTW and a STW
(iii) 800 feet between two STWs
On 5 October, 1989, The Ground Water Management Ordinance, 1985 (XXXV11 of 1985)
was suspended vide memo no.SRO- 040/89 of The Ministry of Agriculture. As a result tube
wells were sunk indiscriminately causing reduced well discharge during irrigation period,
especially during peak water demand.
Well discharge not only depends on the static water level but also on well spacing. If wells
are sunk within the radius of influence of another, then static and pumping water level of
both the tube wells go down more causing reduced yield. In many areas of Bangladesh
improper well spacing is also a major cause of less discharge and pump failure especially
during peak water demand period of March-April. Inadequate spacing produced deeper
pumping levels, increased regional drawdown and decreased well discharge which increases
pumping costs and thereby turned the irrigated agriculture uneconomical (Alam, 2006).
2.4.2 National Water Policy, 1999
The National Water Policy, 1999 was formulated for proper utilization and development of
surface water and groundwater through skilled and balanced management. To conserve
groundwater this policy provides some guidelines i.e. control on groundwater abstraction in
areas identified by government, natural wetland conservation in urban areas, encourage
tree plantation in areas where the water level goes down, and integrate and encourage
public, private research organizations and universities to invent sustainable technology for
combined use of rain water, surface water and groundwater.
2.4.3 Wetland Conservation Act, 2000
Open space, parks and wetlands has significance role in groundwater recharge. These areas
should be carefully identified and strictly protected from encroachment and pollution. The
Wetland Conservation Act, 2000 was introduced for this purpose.
2.4.4 The Environmental Conservation Act and Rules 1997
The 1995 law is an enabling act, which gives the MoEF the power to draw up rules and
guidelines for managing the environment and. The law also designates the DoE as the
responsible body for enforcing the EIA procedures outlined in the 1997 Rules, along with the

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legal procedures to be followed for implementing the EIA process. The rules also designate
four classes of possible interventions by degree of expected environmental impact. The
Environmental Conservation Rules also contain national environmental standards, including
those for water quality standards for different sectors and purposes. Peripheral rivers of
Dhaka are polluted from industrial wastes. To ease the pressure on groundwater by
increasing the use of surface water, the pollution of these rivers should be prevented. The
Environmental Conservation Rules, 1997 might be useful policy instrument to control water
pollution from industries. The legal aspects of groundwater conservation are summarized in
table 1.

Table 1: Groundwater Conservation through Act, Rules, and Policy in Bangladesh


Ordinance/Act/Rule/Policy Control/Prevention/Measures
Ground Water Management • Specify well spacing to maintain availability of water.
Ordinance, 1985
National Water Policy, 1999 • Regulating and controlling groundwater extraction
areas identified by government,
• Natural wetland protection and conservation in
urban areas,
• Encourage tree plantation in areas where the water
level goes down,
• Integrate and encourage public, private research
organizations and universities to invent sustainable
technology for combined use of rain water, surface
water and groundwater
Wetland Conservation Act, • Conservation of natural wetlands, parks, open
2000 spaces in urban areas to increase the scope of
groundwater recharge.

Environmental Conservation • National environmental quality standards for


Rules,1997 industrial effluents
• Obtain environment clearance
• Requirement of EIA according to categories of
industries
Source: Own illustration.
The demand of water is increasing with rapid urbanization and large scale abstraction of
groundwater is continuing as Dhaka is very much dependent on groundwater for it water
supply. Intensive abstraction of groundwater may cause well failure, land subsidence,
intrusion of contaminants into the subsurface etc.

3.0 Urbanization and Groundwater Depletion


3.1 Urbanization Pattern of Dhaka City
The creation of the independent state of Bangladesh in 1971 bestowed on Dhaka the glory
and prestige of the capital of a sovereign country. This led to Dhaka's phenomenal growth.
A recent study by World Bank has estimated that about 40% of the total population in
Bangladesh will be living in urban area in Bangladesh by 2025 (ADB, 2000). Urban
population density in Bangladesh was 2179 persons/sq.km in 1991 and the present density
is estimated at approximately 3008 persons/sq.km. Population density of Dhaka mega city
was found to be 4795 persons/sq.km in 1991 and the present density is estimated at
approximately 8573 persons/sq.km. However, the population density of DCC area is more
than three times of the megacity area, as in 1991 it was 15333 persons/sq.km against
estimated present density of 18055 persons/sq.km (BBS, 2001). With limited availability of
flood-free land, further densification of population along with haphazard encroachment of
peripheral land of Dhaka as well as in urban areas of Bangladesh seems inevitable. Dhaka
has the lion’s share of urban population. The following table shows the level of urbanization
in Dhaka region.

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Table 2: Proportion of Total Population Residing in the Urban Areas of Bangladesh


Years Total Annual Total urban Level of Annual
population average population urbanization average
(‘000) growth rate (‘000) growth rate
1951 4,20,62 0.02 18,19 4.33 1.70
1961 5,08,40 1.91 26,40 5.19 3.79
1974 7,14,79 3.47 62,73 8.78 9.04
1981 8,71,20 2.00 1,35,35 15.54 7.99
1991 11,14,55 2.49 2,24,55 20.15 5.19
2001 12,38,51 1.06 2,86,05 23.10 2.45
Source: BBS, 2001

Table 3: Level of Urbanization of Dhaka Region


Year 1961 1974 1981 1991 2001
Level of 14.79 29.56 38.94 54.42 61.48
urbanization
Source: Jahan, et al, 2007
This table shows that the level of urbanization in has increased in course of time. Much of
the urbanization has been concentrated in the Dhaka region, which is 61.48% urbanized,
compared to 42.45% in the second most urbanized district, Chittagong. Dhaka is the most
important and pivotal urban centre in the country where around 47% of the urban
population reside. The level of urbanization of Dhaka district is 91.7% i.e. 7901700 people
out of 8618700 populations live in urban area (BBS, 2001).

Figure 1: Year Wise Population of Dhaka City

Year Wise Population of Dhaka

13

12

11
Population (million)

10
Population
(Million)
9

6
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005
Year

Data Source: Azam, 2006


Figure 1 shows the population has increased from 7.3 million in 1991 to 12.2 million in
2005. It is expected that the population of Dhaka city will be 13.6 million and 24.25 million
by the year 2010 and 2025 respectively (Azam, 2006). The primary reason of this fast
growing trend of urbanization of Dhaka are largely attributed to the establishment of capital
city, locations of various government and non-government offices, industrial and
commercial organizations, educational institution etc. (Jahan, et al, 2007).This rapid pace of
urbanization creates extreme pressure on basic utility services such as shelter, water,
electricity etc.

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At present, the water demand of Dhaka is 210 crore litres per day and the supply is 170 to
180 crore litres per day. Thus Dhaka is facing shortage of water of 30 to 40 crore litres
every day (Daily Prothom Alo, 2008,). Lion’s share of water supply of Dhaka (86.26%)
comes from groundwater. Till November 2007 there are 472 deep tube wells which produce
1561.33 mld. The remaining 13.74% surface water comes from different water treatment
plants of DWASA (DWASA, November, 2007). As surface water bodies near the city are
becoming increasingly polluted and costly to purify, public water utilities and other urban
water users are turning to groundwater as potential source of supply. Therefore, the present
water supply system of almost entirely depends on groundwater (Hoque, et al, 2004).
Groundwater extraction puts heavy pressure on the city’s water table, especially when most
of the city’s supply of water depends on what the tube wells extract from the ground
(Rahman, 2005). The following table shows the groundwater levels at different locations of
Dhaka and the percentage of increase in water level between the year 2001 and 2007.

Table 4: Groundwater level at different locations of Dhaka City (Meter)


Locations

Mohammadp

Dhanmondi
Sabujbagh

Year

Sutrapur
Gulshan

Tejgaon
Lalbagh

Mirpur
ur
2001 38.5 51.78 39.3 19.5 25.17 45.5 42.5 40.13

2007 62.0 58.75 47.5 m 20.5 37.56 68.5 67.0 60.42


m
% 61.04 13.46 20.86 5.13% 49.23 50.55 57.65 50.56
increased % % % % % % %
Source: BWDB and BADC, 2007

Hydrographs of water level monitoring bores have been analyzed to asses the changes in
the water level of the Dhaka city. Long term hydrographs from different parts of the city
indicate the drop in water level is increasing very rapidly throughout the city. For assessing
hydrographs, eight groundwater monitoring station of BWDB and BADC have been selected
at different locations i.e. Gulshan, Sabujbagh, Lalbagh, Sutrapur, Mohammadpur,
Dhanmondi, Tejgaon and Mirpur.

Figure 2: Hydrograph at Gulshan Figure 3: Hydrograph at Khilgaon

Groundwater Level at Khilgaon


Groundwater Level at Gulshan 48
49
35
50
38.5
40
G ro un d w ater Level (m )

51.5
G ro u n d w a te r L e v e l (m )

43 52 52
52.5
45 45.5
53.5
54
50
51.5
52.5 55.5

55 56

58.5
60 58
62
59.25
65
December December December December December December December 60
January January June January January January January
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Year Year

Data Source: BWDB, 2007

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Figure 4: Hydrograph at Lalbagh Figure 5: Hydrograph at Sutrapur

Groundwater Level at Lalbagh Groundwater Level at Sutrapur


39 19
39.3
19.25
40 40

19.5 19.5
19.6
40.8
41
Groundwater Level (m)

G ro u n d w ater L evel (m )
19.8
41.5
20 20
42

43 43
20.5 20.5

44
44.5
44.76 21
45
21.25

46 21.5
December December December December December December February December December December December December December June 2007
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2001 2002 2003 2004 2006
2005
Year Year
Figure 6: Hydrograph at Tajgaon Figure 7: Hydrograph at Mirpur
Source: BWDB, 2007
Groundwater Level at Tejgaon Groundwater Level at Mirpur
40 40.13
45 45.5

47.8

44.4 50
45

G ro u n d w a te r L ev e l (m )
G ro u n d w a te r L ev el (m )

54.36
50 49.76 55

53.26 58.5

55 60

57.77
58.46 63.5

60 65 65.5
60.42

68.5

65 70
July 2001 July 2002 July 2003 July 2004 April 2005 April 2006 April 2007 September August August August August August August
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Year Year

Figure 8: Hydrograph at Mohammadpur Figure 9: Hydrograph at Dhanmondi


Data Source: BADC, 2007
Groundwater Level at Mohammadpur Groundwater Level at Dhanmondi
25 25.17
40
42.5

27 45
28.08

29
Groundwater Level (m)
Groundwater Level (m)

50
30.1

31 53.5
31.82 55 55.5
32.56
33 57.25

34.56
60
35 62.25

65 65.5
37
37.56
68.5

39 70
December December December December December December December December December December December December December December
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Year Year

Data Source: BWDB, 2007

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Map 1: Groundwater level in different monitoring stations of Dhaka city

Not To Scale

Mirpur

68.5m Tejgaon
Khilgaon
Mohammadpur
37.56m 60.42m
59.25m
Dhanmondi
67m
Lalbag
Legend 40.8m

Groundwater Monitoring Stations

Source: BWDB and BADC 2007

Analysis of the hydrographs can be summarized as follows.


• By analyzing hydrographs, it is found that, the highest depth of groundwater level
is 68.5 m in August, 2007 at Mirpur. Total 96 deep tube wells are operated by
DWASA in densely populated Mirpur area (40607.59 per sq km). Moreover, no
water has been supplied by the surface water treatment plants. For water supply
Mirpur is entirely dependent on groundwater. Therefore, the water level decline
sharply from 45.5 m in September, 2001 to 68.5 m in August, 2007 at Mirpur.
The groundwater level of Dhanmondi is also very high which rises from 42.5 m in
December, 2001 to 67 m in December, 2007.
• The declining rate of groundwater level is alarming as well at Tejgaon (62.42 m),
Gulsan (62 m), Khilgaon (59.25 m) and Sabujbagh (58.75 m). In these areas the
water abstraction rate is higher than the recharge.
• The groundwater level of Mohammadpur, Rayer Bazar, Lalbagh and BUET
compound are 37.56 m, 31.25 m, 40.8 and 47.5 respectively. There are few
scopes for recharge at Mohammadpur and Rayer Bazar. That is why the water
levels are not so high and the declining rate is steady in comparison with other
areas.
• Sutrapur represents a different state of groundwater level. This is at the close
proximity to the river Buriganga and the recharge is quite significant. Therefore,
the change in water level during last seven years is minimum i.e. 19.5 m in
December, 2001 and 20.5 m in June, 2007.
• The declining rate of groundwater in Dhaka city is 2-3 m per year. The overall
groundwater level in the city is below 50 m.

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3.2 Reason of Groundwater Depletion


Rapid urbanization including construction of roads, buildings, and other engineering
structures, flood protection dams and embankments is continuously hindering the natural
groundwater recharges from rainfall and perennial water sources existing in and around the
city. The survey finds the decline to be more severe mainly to the city centre where
concrete coating prevents recharge of the groundwater level from the rainwater (Roy,
2003). Most of the beels and low lying areas surrounding Dhaka city are covered by the
thick impervious clay which is not favourable for vertical recharge. Moreover, due to
expansion of city, these areas are rapidly urbanized and consequently the local water
demand increased. The adjoining contribution to the aquifer system from the rivers is
seemed to be very limited indicated by the great differences between the rivers stages and
the groundwater level. The river are being silted and reducing the permeability of their
beds. Though the rivers eroded the thick sandy clay and some portion of sandy materials, it
is evident that the constraints of the sources and their scope to groundwater recharge are
very limited in Dhaka city.
3.3 Prediction of Future Water Level
Based on the recharge to the aquifer and water withdrawal for city water supply for
different purposes, M. Mozzammel Hoque and Sujit Kumar Bala have predicted the future
water level. The results of the prediction are presented in this section to show the
groundwater conditions in the year 2020 at different locations of the city.
• In the year 2020 the water level would drop at (-) 58 m from the datum level at Old
Dhaka. The yearly rate of decrease in water level is about 1.5 m.
• At the beginning of simulation the water level was at (-) 22m and at the end of the
simulation the water level would be at (-) 70 m from the reference level in the
recently developed parts of the city. The rate of decrease per year is about 2.5 m,
which is alarming.
• At the central part of the city is at (-) 30m the groundwater level will go down at the
level of (-) 90 m in the year 2020. In this area both the vertical and lateral recharge is
insignificant and the withdrawal rate is higher than the other part of the city since the
area is densely populated as well as commercial.

4.0 Impacts of ground water level depletion


The vulnerable conditions of the aquifer may result in drying of existing wells, high water
production cost, land subsidence, increasing temperature in the micro climate, hampering
natural balance, diminishing surface water and intrusion of contaminated water from
adjacent rivers. These impacts are described as follows.
4.1 Geological Impact
Rapid urbanization without considering the geological aspects has brought significant
changes in the geo-environment of the city area. Water logging, pollution, changes in the
hydro-geological system, localized land subsidence and building collapse are the hazards
associated with these changes in the geo-environment.
4.2 Land Subsidence
Problems of land subsidence can also follow rapid depletion of aquifers. This can affect both
upland and lowland cities. Mexico City (about 2,000 metres above sea level) and Bangkok
(at sea level), for example, are both suffering severe groundwater-induced subsidence,
resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage.
Land subsidence not only damages individual buildings and roads, but also underground
piped services, further increasing water depletion and contamination. Leaks from water
mains and sewers, and ruptured oil pipelines and underground tanks can add to shortages
and soil and groundwater pollution. Khandakar Fazal Hasan, chief geologist of Bangladesh
Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) said in a website “If water table continues to

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fall then a vacuum will be created in the aquifer which could cause a sudden collapse in the
surface.” He gave the example of Bangkok city where same thing happened due to over
extraction of groundwater (http://www.bangladeshnews.com.bd/2008/03/26/dhaka-sits-on-
big-hollow/Dhaka sits on big hollow).
Due to the high withdrawal of water, the sands of the upper most aquifer dewatered first
and water table dropped, the clay and silts in the aquifer squeezed and void spaces create
in the sandy formation due to lowering of water table and at the same time due to
overburden pressure they are sandwitched due to compression.
From the structural point of view Dhaka city is situated in an earthquake prone area. If any
major earthquake takes place that may significantly contribute to land subsidence due to
variability of ground condition (BWDB, 1991). The maximum subsidence of 17 to 27 mm in
Dhaka city occurred near the New Airport and 11 to 63 mm at Mohakhali and Kamlapur area
during the period between 1990 and 1999 (BUET, 2000).
4.3 Earthquake
Dhaka city is located within a very high risk zone for high magnitude earthquake that may
also facilitate high-scale regional land subsidence and loss of numerous lives and properties
once a medium to high magnitude earthquake hits the city. “Declining groundwater level
will greatly increase the risks during earthquakes. It could lead to subsidence of the clay soil
plate Dhaka is situated on,” said Khandakar Fazal Hasan.
(http://www.bangladeshnews.com.bd/2008/03/26/dhaka-sits-on-big-hollow/Dhaka sits on
big hollow).
The WASA, in its bid to collect ground water, seems set to install a large number of tube
wells with a depth of 1000 feet in the city. The existing 600 feet deep tube wells are not
considered adequate to extract water due to a significant lowering of the ground water
table. The experts have said in very clear terms that excessive dependence on ground water
can invite environmental hazards of various kinds. Experience shows that over-extraction of
ground water can cause land subsidence and lead to creation of underground vacuums
which make us all the more vulnerable to earthquake. Ground water is not being recharged
at the same rate as it is depleted. In effect, the process of digging deeper and deeper will
have to be continued endlessly. Clearly, the tube well based water supply has already been
stretched to its limits (http://www.sos-arsenic.net/english/groundwater/index.html).
4.4 Change in Aquifer Characteristics
Hydrostratigraphically the aquifer is a confined aquifer as it is capped by a clay silt layer and
pre and early development hydrostatics of the aquifer was confined. Due to increasing drop
of water level the piezometric surface of the aquifer has fallen more than 50m over the lat
three decades in some parts of the city. Due to this drop of water level, the hydrostatics of
the aquifer changed to that of unconfined aquifer (Haque, 2004). The following figure
illustrates the hydrostatic response of the first aquifer to intensive groundwater abstraction.
4.5 Impact on Environment/ Natural Balance/ Ecological Balance
Dhaka city usually stands on a clay layer named as Modhupur Clay. The thickness of this
layer varies from 3-150 ft. in different locations. This layer is quite thick and sloped into the
North, South. But due to excessive withdrawal of groundwater, there is a good chance to be
dried up this clayish layer. As a result natural/ ecological balance may be adversely affected
due to shrinkage of this clayish layer (Haque, 2003). Due to abrupt lowering of water table
there is likely to occur environmental effects such as drying of recreation lakes, parks,
plants, gardens etc. (BWDB, 1991). If there is no water from the top surface of the soil up
to 135-140 ft.; would hamper the natural/ecological balance of the city.
4.6 Scarcity of Water
The water crisis is particularly severe in the urban areas where overpopulation and
industrialisation are alarmingly depleting the groundwater. In Dhaka city the depletion rate
is three metres every year. More than 80% of Dhaka’s water supply comes from

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groundwater alone, and the upper aquifer of Dhaka has already exceeded its withdrawal
limit. This means almost half of the deep tube wells supplying water to Dhaka will dry up by
2013. The lower aquifer can only accommodate approximately 50 new tube wells.
Effectively, all wells in Dhaka have shown a steady decline in the water table, with some at
65–70 meters below surface level. The lower groundwater tables already are causing well
failures.
(http://www.adb.org/Documents/Reports/Consultant/TA-4651-BAN/feasibility-study.asp).
Falling water level also causing abandonment of wells as the aquifer is dewatered and
running-down of well’s productivity. If the water level goes down to 70 meters due to
continuation of the present rate of extraction of groundwater, a large number of WASA
pumps will become inoperative. The under groundwater of Dhaka city will dry up by the
year 2016 if the present decline in its water level continues due to unabated extraction
(Khan, 2007).
It is very difficult to serve the water demand of ever increasing population through tube well
based technology. At present, 87% of total water supplied in Dhaka city is produced from
groundwater. To ensure the availability of water in the wells, the minimum well spacing
should be 2,000 ft. If this spacing is not followed the water production capacity of the wells
will be reduced. But in Dhaka, to satisfy the increasing water demand a large number of
wells are being installed each year without following the recommended well spacing
properly. (DWASA, 2004-2005)
Apart from this, the water level goes down 2-3 m. per year due to intensive groundwater
abstraction. As a result, the water extraction capacity of the wells is being reduced
(DWASA, 2004-2005). At present, there are more than 100 deep tube wells in Mirpur. But
about half of these wells can abstract only one-third of their capacity, as the water level
decline sharply at Mirpur (Daily Prothom Alo, March, 2008).

Figure 10: Large Gap between Production Capacity and Actual Water
Production in Mirpur

Production Capacity and Actual Water Production in Zone IV

320

310

300

290
Water Quantity (MLD)

280
Production
270 Capacity Zone IV

260
Actual Production
250 Zone IV
240

230

220
Jul- Aug- Sep- Oct- Nov- Dec- Jan- Feb- Mar- Apr-
06 06 06 06 06 06 07 07 07 07
Year

Source: Own Illustration

The areas where the water crisis is most acute are Pallabi, Mugdhapara, Shewrapara, West
Dhanmondi, Rayerbazar, Kamalbagh, Islambagh, Nawabpur, Paikpara, Kalabagan, Naya
Paltan, Khilgaon, Moghbazar, Bashabo, Kodomtola, Madartek, Sipahibagh, Meradia,
Vuiyapara, Mugda, Manda, Shantibagh, Malibagh, Shiddeshwari, Rampura, Bonosree,
Maximum part of Old Dhaka, Poribagh, Crisent Road, Kathalbagan, Hazaribagh, Jigatola,
Lalbagh, Azimpur, Noorjahan Road, Salimullah Road Shekhertek, Housing Society and Picci

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Culture of Mohammadpur. Badda, Khilkhet, Section-1, 2, 5, 10, 12 of Greater Mirpur,


Borobagh, Senpara Porbota, Shewrapara, Kazipara, Kallyanpur, Pirerbagh, Ibrahimpur and
Kafrul (Daily Prothom Alo, May, 2008).

Table 5: Location of Acute Water Crisis Areas and Their Groundwater Level
Location of Acute Water Crisis Area Groundwater Level at These
Locations (2007)
Mirpur 68.5 meter
Dhanmondi 67 meter
Tejgaon 60.42 meter
Khilgaon 59.25 meter
Basabo, Sabujbagh 58.75 meter
Lalbagh 40.8 meter
Mohammadpur 37.56 meter
Source: The Daily Prothom Alo, 2008
Table 5 reveals that, water scarcity is very acute where the groundwater level is much
higher than other areas. The groundwater level of Mirpur, Dhanmondi, Tejgaon, Khilgoan,
Basabo and Lalbagh are 68.5 m, 67 m, 60.42 m, 59.25 m and 40.8 m respectively and the
water crisis in these areas are quite severe. In these consequences, millions of city dwellers
are likely to face an acute water crisis in the coming years.
4.7 High Water Production Cost
With rapid urbanization, the water demand of the city is also increasing rapidly. To serve
the ever increasing water demand DWASA install a number of new deep tube wells in each
year. The falling water level across the extensive part of the city, leading to increased
pumping costs through deepening of wells and installation of longer, large diameter pump
house and longer screen section (Morris, et al, 2003).
In addition, as the water level goes down drastically, the water abstraction capacity of the
wells has been reduced. So, more power/electricity, fuel, generator are required to operate
these deep tube wells. As a result, DWASA has to expense more on power/electricity
supply, fuel, generator etc. Apart from these, Due to lowering of water table re-sinking of
many WASA’s tube wells is required at greater depth with more housing length and thereby
increased pumping cost (BWDB, 1991). Thus the water cost has been increasing every year.

Table 6: DWASA’s Expenditure on Power, fuel/generator in Different Years (Taka


in Lakh)
Year Expenditure on power, Percentage (%)
fuel/generator
2002-2003 6205.38 31.79
2003-2004 7257.94 32.57
2004-2005 11536.40 42.63
Source: DWASA, 2004-2005
The above table shows the expenditure of DWASA on power, fuel/generator in different
year. It is observed that, expense on electricity, fuel, generator etc has been increasing
over the years. Thus the water production cost of DWASA has also increased.
4.8 Impact on Temperature
The water level of Dhaka city has declined 20 ft in the last seven years. As a result, the
temperature of Dhaka city is increasing along with water scarcity (Islam, 2006). The
temperature of Dhaka has increased 1.8° C during the last 100 years. The increasing rate of
temperature in Motijheel, Tejgaon, Farmgate and Old Dhaka are quite unusual (Daily
Prothom Alo, May, 2008).
4.9 Diminishing Surface Water
Problems also result from pumping along streams, where the groundwater is so closely
related to water in the stream that pumping from production wells depletes the stream-
flow. Problems arise because the pumped water is not readily replaced from the streams or

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it is readily replaced but the stream water is either needed downstream or is unsuitable for
use (Walton, 1970).

Surface waters are also affected by falling water tables. In various wetlands, for instance,
the water table is essentially at or slightly above the ground surface. Dropping water tables
result in such wetlands drying up. Further as water tables drop springs and seeps dry up,
diminishing stream and river and even to the point of dryness. Thus, excessive groundwater
removal leads to the same effects as diversion of surface water of Dhaka city (Shattyajit,
2006).

Water level of the Buriganga, the lifeline of the capital city, has gone down to 6.65 metres
this year while the normal level was 7.23 metres in 1998 and 7.68 metres in 1988. Water
level of the Turag has dropped to 7.29 metres, Tongi khal 7.01 metres and Balu river 6.98
metres this year. As an increasing number of city people cannot use surface water from
rivers, canals, lakes and other water bodies due to the fall in water level and consequent
pollution, the pressure on groundwater has increased resulting in the decline of water table.
These were revealed at the 'Consultation Workshop on Dhaka City State of Environment
Report-2003' jointly organised by the Department of Environment (DoE) and Bangladesh
Centre for Advanced Studies.
(http://www.sos-arsenic.net/english/groundwater/index.html).
4.10 Contamination of Groundwater
The environmental conditions in most parts of the city are poor, with direct discharges of
human and industrial wastes into the river systems possible contamination of groundwater
from lack of adequate sewerage system, direct industrial disposals and inadequate
management of solid waste disposal. Amongst the occasional groundwater contaminants,
hydrocarbons are the deadly contaminants that are assumed to have already occurred in
the groundwater of Dhaka city or most likely happen in the near future (DWASA, 2006).

5.0 Recommendations
In the future, for the survival of the Dhaka City this lowering trend of ground water must
not be go on. Comprehensive efforts should be taken immediately and following suggestions
are made for the policy maker to consider and act accordingly;
5.1 De-concentration of Urbanization
Immediately prepare the national physical plan and national urbanization policy to de-
concentrate centralized urbanization from Dhaka city. Strategic growth option: It is needed
to implement 3 (among 8) options proposed as the long term strategy in the report of
‘Strategic Growth Options – Dhaka 2016 ‘(DMDP 1993. p-51), 3 priority options were:
Limiting Dhaka’s growth, Developing new satellite city, Sub-regional dispersal. A national
urban strategy would direct or foster urban development in centres other than Dhaka.
• The Task Force on Urbanization (1991) also emphasized on growth and development
of medium-sized cities, turning new district towns and other small towns into
production centres attractive to rural out-migrants and limiting the growth of large
metropolitan cities of Bangladesh. It will reduce the pressure of Dhaka city.
• A well planned public capital investment in the adjacent urban centres may instigate
further population agglomeration in those centers and a counter urbanization2 may
be started to ease the problems of big cities like Dhaka.
5.2 Reduce Dependency on Groundwater
As soon as possible dependency on the groundwater for the urban use should be reduced.
Abstraction of groundwater from the central part of the city should be stopped immediately
as in this area both the vertical and lateral recharge is insignificant and the withdrawal rate
is higher than the other part of the city since the area is densely populated as well as
commercial. For the time being groundwater could be abstracted from the peripheral region

2
A process of population de-concentration. The counter urbanization was first widely appreciated in the USA
in the early 1970’s, where population statistics showed metropolitan areas, especially large metropolitan areas,
losing population by net migration to non-metropolitan areas.

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of the city and for the long run strong suggestion goes for the peri-urban well-fields outside
of the city.
5.3 Increase the Use of Surface Water
Surface water treatment plants are much more efficient in supplying water to the
metropolitan areas as they are able to handle a larger capacity. Unlike the deep tube wells
located within the city, these plants are located near sources of surface water such as
nearby rivers. At present, surface water provides 13.74% of total water supply of the Dhaka
city from water treatment plants at Sayedabad Phase I, Chandighat, and Narayanganj. For
efficient use of surface water following measures are necessary:

• Keeping the peripheral rivers pollution free from industrial, domestic and other
wastes. Establishment of new industry at the river bank should be prohibited. The
industries that are already established near the river the installed effluent treatment
plant should be mandatory to treat their wastes. As the major portion of domestic
waste is organic, this may be used in composting fertilizer plants. For inorganic
wastes, 3R method i. e. reduction, reuse and recycle; can be introduced. As like
peripheral rivers, all lakes, ponds, canals, ditches of the city should also be kept
pollution free. The Environmental Conservation Rules 1997 might be useful policy
instrument to control water pollution from industries.

• The fertilizer plants upstream release ammonia which is a greater problem in the dry
season. Another source of ammonia comes from the sewage lines that are coming
from the city and eventually end up 8 dumping the wastes directly into the river.
Although the Saidabad plant does have ammonia treatment system, the high levels
during the dry season was unaccounted for and is too much for the plant to handle.
The SWTP was not designed to handle such a high influx of ammonia or algae coming
into the intake pipes. The proposed solution to this problem is that the intake pipe
needs to be rerouted to the Meghna River. In many cases, rerouting the intake pipe is
the best option as it solves many other problems that are associated with the
Saidabad Water Treatment Plant. Shifting the intake point to the Meghna River will
also supply the necessary quantity of water needed for usage in the other three
phases of the treatment plant. The distance, which the intake needs to be shifted, is
about 17 kilometers and would cost around $10 million US. This is almost equal to the
budget for SWTP Phase Two and Phase Three (Rahman, 2005).

• The final three phases of the SWTP are still awaiting completion. Not much is required
for the second phase of the plant because most of it had been established with the
construction of phase one. Facilities such as pumping stations to harvest raw water
have already been built for the first phase and are meant to accommodate the second
phase as well. A mere eight kilometres of underground pipes need to be installed and
added to the already existing 36 pipelines built during phase one of the project for the
completion of the plant’s second phase. This will greatly improve the water supply as
an additional 22.5 crore or 225 million liters of water will be pumped into the city’s
water network from the Saidabad Water Treatment Plant after Phase Two is
completed. Nicolas Simard, the process manager at SWTP states, “When all four
phases are completed, we will produce 1 million cubic meters of water a day. That’s
the same as 1 billion liters of water daily.” Areas such as Old Dhaka, Shantinagar,
Motijheel, Elephant Road, Tejgaon, and parts of Dhanmondi and Lalmatia will greatly
benefit with the completion of the plant. Once Phase Two or Phase Three of the
treatment plant has been built, it should be able to meet the city’s demand for water.
So to supply more water, we have to increase the number of treatment plants and
develop the distribution network.
5.4 Rainwater Harvesting
Pressures mount on groundwater due to ever increasing population in Dhaka. Harvesting
rainwater can be a nice way out in solving this problem. Many countries including Japan use
rainwater in chores. Even rainwater is used for drinking too in some countries. Dhaka
experiences an average annual rainfall of 1693 mm (BMD, 2005). If this rainwater can be
harvested in all the buildings (where possible), it may contribute a lot in the existing water
supply.

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5.5 Reduction of System Loss


System loss of water is when water is lost or missing from the point of injection to the point
of extraction because of the condition of the system it is in. System loss occurs from simple
things like leaving the tap on to broken pipes. Other forms of system loss include un-
metered usage, evaporation, and illegal connections where water is pilfered or leeched off
other users. System loss of water is a common dilemma in many other South Asian
countries. For Dhaka this is a huge problem like other large cites in the subcontinent with a
system loss of 40 percent. This large percentage is a serious inefficiency for Dhaka’s supply
network as much of the water is lost. By fixing most of the degrading or broken pipes and
correcting “institutional” leakages and losses - which are illegal connections and incorrect
billings - system loss in Dhaka can be lowered (Rahman, 2005). The government did not
replace them when developing Dhaka after Bangladesh’s independence in 1947. Instead
they have built around them and have simply added to the intricate network of pipelines
under the streets of Dhaka. Fixing the broken pipes can be a significant improvement to the
water supply of Dhaka. System loss could be reduced to 20 percent by 2010 and 10 percent
by 2020 if proper funding is allocated to it.
5.6 Increase the Scope of Recharge
Replenishment of the exhausted Dhaka aquifer is a natural emergency. The recharge of
groundwater mainly occurs in two ways; such as:
A. Natural Recharge
B. Artificial Recharge
A .Natural Recharge
Wetlands are characterized as the reservoirs of the surface, rain and ground water.
Disappearances of many lakes, canals, and small rivers in and around the city also
depreciated groundwater recharge. Reports say that a network of 22 canals that facilitated
the natural drainage for the floodwaters and groundwater recharge in this city has
disappeared or shrunk over the last four decades. Rapid urbanization including construction
of roads, buildings, and other engineering structures, flood protection dams and
embankments is continuously hindering the natural groundwater recharges from rainfall and
perennial water sources existing in and around the city. Out of 40,167 acres of land under
DCC 8668 acres or 21.57% are left as open space. If the current trend in occupation and
encroachment continues, only 4% of the land will remain as open space by the year2010
(Haque, 2006). Shrinkage of open spaces reduces the scope of groundwater recharge. For
natural recharge, these wetlands, canals and open spaces should be conserved. Strict
implementation of Wetland Conservation Act, 2000 might be an effective policy instrument
in this regard. Retention ponds can play significant role in natural recharge of groundwater
and acts as surface water reservoir as well. In DMDP 1995, the retention ponds of the city
have been identified. Such retention ponds should be conserved properly.
B. Artificial Recharge
The underground water table of Dhaka can be recharged easily during the rainy season by
artificially infiltrating water through the topsoil layer of ground into the sub-soil reservoirs.
This method can also greatly help recharge Dhaka's water tables fast during the rainy
season.
Infiltration wells can be dug at a very low cost and these could greatly speed up the water
recharging system. It is highly recommended to be very care full and to carry out studies on
the probable consequences (especially geochemical) before set up artificial recharge wells or
other means.
5.7 Implementation of Laws
The Ground Water Management Ordinance 1985 defines the minimum distance of well
spacing. On 5 October, 1989, The Ground Water Management Ordinance, 1985 (XXXV11 of
1985) was suspended vide memo no.SRO- 040/89 of The Ministry of Agriculture. As a
result tube wells were sunk indiscriminately. Well discharge not only depends on the static
water level but also on well spacing. If wells are sunk within the radius of influence of
another, then static and pumping water level of both the tube wells go down more causing

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reduced yield. Inadequate spacing produced deeper pumping levels, increased regional
drawdown and decreased well discharge which increases pumping costs. To conserve the
groundwater of Dhaka city, the Ground Water Management Ordinance 1985 should be
enacted immediately.
Open space, parks and wetlands has significance role in groundwater recharge. For natural
recharge, these wetlands, canals and open spaces should be carefully identified and strictly
protected from encroachment and pollution. Strict implementation of the Wetland
Conservation Act, 2000 might conserve these natural recharge areas.
To conserve groundwater National Water Policy 1999 provides some guidelines i.e. control
on groundwater abstraction in areas identified by government, natural wetland conservation
in urban areas, encourage tree plantation in areas where the water level goes down, and
integrate and encourage public, private research organizations and universities to invent
sustainable technology for combined use of rain water, surface water and groundwater.
Proper implementation of these guidelines will ensure sustainable utilization of groundwater.
5.8 Research Works
Intensive research works should be carried on in the universities and research organizations
to find out appropriate devices that may contribute in groundwater recharge, cheap
rainwater harvesting technology and categorized usage of water. Absolute pure water is not
required for every purposes i.e. toilet flush, car washing. Researcher should focus on
whether the same water can be used for different purposes after little treatment. To
promote categorized usage of water different water rate may be imposed i.e. different water
rate for household usage, commercial or industrial purpose and so on.
Moreover, detailed hydrogeological investigations should be undertaken to find out suitable
aquifers underneath the present aquifer system at deeper depth. It is assumed that other
potential aquifers may exist in the subsurface beneath the present ‘Dupi Tila’ aquifer, which
can be developed for groundwater supplies in this city after careful hydraulic investigations
of the aquifer potentials.
6.0 Conclusion
The study was conducted to identify the impact of urbanization on the groundwater of
Dhaka city. With rapidly growing population, groundwater abstraction also has increased
and thereby water level declines 2-3m per year. Rapid urbanization shrunk the scope of
natural recharge. Future city dwellers will be facing massive environmental problems
including fresh drinking water if the present situation is not handled carefully and
immediately. The future scenario of the groundwater condition of the city can also be
simulated and modeled so that we have the understanding for the sustainable use of water
from present water supply systems that will facilitate the replenishment of the present
groundwater storage of the aquifers mainly in the depressed city central region. Planners
and policy makers of the country should keep in mind that the groundwater situation in this
city has already reached its alarming state. So any further groundwater development in
Dhaka city should call for detailed hydrogeological investigation and detailed exploration.
However, the success of different initiatives would be doubtful if the present trend of water
demand and groundwater abstraction of the city continued. Large population will generate
high water demand which entail more deep tube well installation, more water treatment
plants, expanded water distribution network that eventually increase the per capita cost of
water. Planners and policy makers should also think about how the massive influx of
population to the Dhaka city can be reduced and set up a balanced urbanization throughout
the country. In this regard the establishment and proper development of the secondary
towns and small towns should be taken into strong consideration.

Reference
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