Study on Water Supply System at Rangamati Municipal Area, Chittagong Hill Tracts

Zahid Husain Khan

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Study on Water Supply System at Rangamati Municipal Area, Chittagong Hill Tracts

Zahid Husain Khan

World University of Bangladesh, Dhanmondi, Dhaka


Rangamati is a district town of Bangladesh in Chittagong hill tracts located at south-eastern side of Bangladesh. This is the largest district of Bangladesh in terms of area and the area is about 6116 square kilometer. Rangamati is 77 kilometer away from Chittagong district headquarters. 52 percent of the population is indigenous and divided into more than twelve different tribes. The people of this region have limited source of pure water and depends on natural sources like rivers, canals, lakes and springs for domestic uses. From the study it is revealed that in the municipal area of Rangamati ninety percent people are using tube well water for drinking purpose. Fifty five percent people installed tube well by their own cost and rest of the people are using tube well of different sources like NGO, CHTDB etc. Quality of municipal supply water is not potable and it is used only for bathing, washing etc. Municipal authority cannot supply sufficient water and there is no water treatment plant at Rangamati. Collection of rain water is not satisfactory and people have no idea about rain water harvesting.

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Cite this article:

  • Khan, Zahid Husain. "Study on Water Supply System at Rangamati Municipal Area, Chittagong Hill Tracts." World Journal of Environmental Engineering 3.1 (2015): 15-22.
  • Khan, Z. H. (2015). Study on Water Supply System at Rangamati Municipal Area, Chittagong Hill Tracts. World Journal of Environmental Engineering, 3(1), 15-22.
  • Khan, Zahid Husain. "Study on Water Supply System at Rangamati Municipal Area, Chittagong Hill Tracts." World Journal of Environmental Engineering 3, no. 1 (2015): 15-22.

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1. Introduction

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) commonly known as Parbotto Chattagram is the only hilly region in eastern Bangladesh. CHT includes three separate districts namely Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban. Rangamati hill district is surrounded by Bandarban District on the south, Khagrachari and on the west, part of Myanmar on the east and Tripura state of India on the north. Rangamati is 77 kilometer away from Chittagong district headquarters. The total area of Rangamati district is about 6116 square kilometer. 52 percent peoples are indigenous and they are divided in ethnic groups called Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Murang, Rakhain, Lushai, Khyang, Bawm, Khumi, Chak, Tanchangya and Pankua. Rangamati district has ten upazillas: Baghaichhari, Barkal, Kawkhali, Belaichhari, Kaptai, Juraichhari, Longadu, Nannerchar, Rajasthali and Rangamati sadar.

Rangamati is a beautiful place for visititors and full of natural beauties and popular tourist spots. The district is the combination of hills, jungles, rivers, lakes and is famous for beautiful landscape, handicraft products, ivory jewelleries etc. Main rivers in Rangamati are Karnaphuli, Thega, Horina, Kachalong, Shublang, Chingri, Raingkhong and Kaptai.

1.1. Geophysical Characteristics of CHT

The Chittagong Hill Tracts is in indisputable development challenge due to the region's pervasive poverty, its prolonged isolation from the rest of Bangladesh, its topography and its ethnic complexity. It is also a hard to reach area with respect to communication, moderate civil amenities and administrative barrier. People who live in CHT are culturally distinctive and so retain a very distinctive geo-physical characteristics. In terms of geo-physical condition, racial, social, and cultural traits, CHT people are different from the other parts of the country. The CHT has an area of 13180, making up approximately 10% of the total area of Bangladesh. Compared to the low lying floodplains that characterize most of Bangladesh, the topography of the CHT is quite steep, with over 70% of the land at a slope greater than 40o. Kyokradong, the highest peak of Bangladesh (1230 meter) is located in the southern tip of the Bandarban district.

1.2. Geology and Land Forms

The CHT area is geologically of recent origin comprising old pleistocene sediment deposits. The general land feature comprises of a series of anticline ridge lying parallel to one another and trending in roughly NW-SE direction. They are composed largely of consolidated sandstones, sandy shales and shales of tertiary geological age. These have been subjected to considerable folding, faulting, tilting and dissection.

1.3. Rainfall

Bangladesh is a tropical country and receives heavy rainfall due to north-easterly winds during the rainy season. Over 80% of rainfall occurs between May and September. The CHT has a sub-tropical climate with annual temperatures varying from 10° to 35°C. The annual rainfall ranges from 2000 mm to 3750 mm.

1.4. River System

The main rivers in the CHT are Karnaphuli, Halda, Ichhamoti, Sangu, Matamuhuri, Hajolong and Feni. In addition there are smaller streams and canals. They are tributaries to the main rivers. The Karnaphuli river with its tributaries is the biggest and most important river. Hydroelectric project was built on the river in 1962. As a result Kaptai Lake has been formed. In addition to the rivers and canals there are few springs of artesian and non-artesian nature from where water discharges from hills to plains called Chara.

1.5. Outlines of Methodology

a. Field survey was done in municipal area at Rangamati by visiting physically.

b. Questionnaire survey was made in three wards of the study area namely ward number 7, 8 and 9.

c. Secondary data has been collected from various litterateurs, NGO and Government departments.

2. Literature Review

2.1. History and Development of Water Supply

Water supply has its own history, archaeology, literature, science, engineering and technology. The history of water supply is as ancient as the history of man. Waterworks structures are found in excavation of all prehistoric ruins. The remains of lake Moeris in Egypt indicate its construction about 2000 BC. It was the largest of the reservoirs of the valley, which is believed to have supplied water for 2 million people. Many water supplies in early times were derived from large tanks excavated on rain water drainage lines which would collect and store rain water in the wet season to provide water supply during dry periods. Especially notable are the structures of water supply, drainage, sewerage, and swimming pools of Mohenjodaro, Roman and Greek civilization.

Water supply in and started during the early stage of the development of water supply. The water supply in city was first started with the establishment of Dhaka Water Works (DWW) by Nawab Sir Abdul Gani in 1874. The water works in Calcutta was completed in 1870 and those in Bombay and Madras in 1875 and 1880 respectively. Schemes for the collection of groundwater through hand pump tube wells for community water supplies in rural were taken as early as 1928. In the context of very high prevalence of diarrheal diseases in Bangladesh, ground water, being usually free from disease producing micro organisms, received priority as a source of water for water supply. Since 1928, more than 8 million hand tube wells in have been sunk to provide drinking water to 97% of the rural population. (HDRC).

2.2. Importance of Water Supply

Water is absolutely essential for man, animals and plants. Without water life on earth would not exist. Main uses of water is not only for drinking and culinary purposes but also for bathing, laundering and other domestic uses. It is difficult to imagine any clean and sanitary environment without water. The larger the quantity and the better the quality of water, the more rapid and extensive is the advancement of the public health. Health problems related to the inadequacy of water supplies are universal but generally of greater magnitude and significance in developing countries. Although population under supply coverage improved significantly during the water supply and sanitation decade, it has been estimated about 25% of the population in developing countries still does not have access to safe water. As a result, millions of people in developing countries each year suffer from water related diseases. The infant mortality rate is still very high in developing countries largely due to unsafe water supplies.

Water exists in solid, liquid and gaseous forms. Oceans and seas are the main sources of water on earth but that is salty. The fresh liquid water sources on land surface and in the ground constitute only about 1% of the total water on earth. These fresh water sources have been formed by condensation of water evaporated mainly from the oceans and seas. The main sources of water in are surface waters in rivers, reservoirs, lakes, canals and ponds and groundwater in shallow and deep aquifers. The rainwater is an alternatives source of water and has good potential for water supply in .

2.3. Water Sources
2.3.1. Surface Water

The lies in the south-west directions from the hill tracts. Bandarban district is closest to the Bay of Bengal. The other two districts are little away from the Bay of Bengal. Monsoon rain is the main source of surface water which flows through the rivers in the form of excess run-off. During the monsoon river level remains high but during the dry period the level drops low.

2.3.2. Ground Water

Ground water is the most important source of water supply in Bangladesh. Except for few hilly regions is entirely under laid by water bearing formations at depths varying from zero to 20 m below ground surface. The soil is mostly stratified and formed by alluvial deposits of sand and silt, having occasional lenses of clay. The main constituent of the aquifer materials is the medium-grained sand deposited at the lower reach by the mighty rivers the Ganges, the Bramaputra and the Meghna with their tributaries. Ground water can be easily abstracted by installation of wells for development of water supply systems. The water abstracted for various purposes is replenished in the monsoon.

2.3.3. Safe Water Sources

The surface water sources in the CHT are not safe. The indigenous community people think that the well’s water is safe since it is apparently clean. Moreover, the wells dug beside the Charas go under water during rainy season or flash-flood situation. They then drink and use contaminated water of the Charas.

Ground water is the main source of water supply in urban and rural areas of Bangladesh. In Chittagong Hill Tracts drilling of tube wells for rural water supply is difficult due to the presence of hard formations in the subsurface. In most cases conventional drilling methods for the installation of hand pumps cannot penetrate these hard rock formations. The ring well is the oldest method of ground water withdrawal in this region. Usually no special equipment or skill is required for the construction of ring wells. For construction by manual digging the wells should be at least 1.2 meters in diameter. Ring wells should be at least 1 meter deeper than the lowest water table. Among the safe water sources ring well is the popular alternative in the CHT areas.

The major sources of drinking and cooking water in CHT are not safe. Most tube wells have not been tested for arsenic contamination. People have to travel long distances to fetch drinking water and spend substantial amount of time for the same. The distance and traveling time varies by season. A widespread practice of gender discrimination in collection of water is found, it is the female members who suffer most due to water scarcity and inadequate hygiene situation.

Figure 1. Collection of clean spring water from a tap stand in Silchari village at Rangamati

The indigenous people are not habituated to use modern water technologies, as they have not been introduced to them like the people of plain districts have been. So the indigenous people have to depend solely on the natural sources of water, particularly on the springs, for drinking, cooking, washing, and bathing and cultivation. All of the villages, therefore, have been built adjacent to the springs. Even people have to shift their age old villages in case of the death of a spring near which the village was located. All of the rivers and tributaries in CHT are simply the confluence of hundreds of springs of this region.

Figure 2. Traditional dug‐well (Chara) used in the CHT
2.4. Kaptai Lake

The then Pakistan Government in 1962 made an artificial water reservoir, now famous as Kaptai Lake, by building a dam on the Karnaphuli river to produce hydro-electricity. This lake has grabbed a total of 54,000 acres, i.e 40 per cent of cultivable land of the indigenous people. This decrease of cultivable land and increase of population has created a serious pressure on the forest. Traditionally the indigenous people practice the "slash and burn" system widely known as jhum for farming.

For a balance patterned "slash and burn" farming, a hill ideally needs 15-20 years of interval to recover the vegetation burned during the farming. In past, the land and man ratio was ideal and the expected interval in the jhum cycle was maintained. But presently, because of excessive population, this interval has reached to 2-3 years, which is extremely insufficient to allow the vegetation growing to recover the forests. This vicious cycle of jhum cultivation is one of the major reasons of depleting indigenous forests, a precondition for origination of the springs. Further the depletion of indigenous forests is causing the temperature increase and correctively the precipitation decrease. Thus, the whole spectrums of environmental changes are resulting into the water crisis in CHT.

3. Data Analysis and Results

Table 7. Demand for Treatment Plant at Rangamati Municipal Area

4. Results and Discussions

1. 90% people of Rangamati municipal area are using tube well for drinking purpose. 9% people are using spring, lake and rest 1% people are using ring well water for drinking purpose.

2. The average water required per day/family is about 285 liters.

3. About 55% people are using tube well installed by their own expenses and rest 45 % people are collecting from other tube well sources.

4. Water supplied by municipal authority is not drinkable and it is used for cooking, bathing, washing etc.

5. The municipal authority supply water at every alternate day.

6. There are three filtering stations at Rangamati Municipal area and there is no water treatment plant.

7. Most of the people do not collect rainwater and do not know about rainwater harvesting.

8. Underground water is available at 50-100 feet below ground level.

9. Local people paying monthly water bill for municipal water on an average of TK 75 per family.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1. Conclusions

1. There is no water treatment plant at Rangamati and municipal authority supplies water with filtration only.

2. Municipal authority supplies water at every alternate day which is insufficient.

3. The major source of drinking and cooking water in Rangamati municipal area are tube wells. Most tube wells have not been tested for arsenic contamination.

4. People have to travel long distances to fetch drinking water and spend substantial amount of time for the same. The distance and traveling time varies with season.

5.2. Recommendations

1. Water treatment plant should be constructed urgently to supply pure drinking water in Rangamati municipal area.

2. Continuous and sufficient supply of water should be assured instead of present practice of alternate day supply.

3. About 90 percent people dependent on tube well for drinking water and hence arsenic contamination of tube wells should be checked regularly.

4. Surface water available in the lakes, charas, canals etc. may be protected and used in supply after proper treatment.

5. Water supply management system in Rangamati should be developed and a separate authority to look into the matter should be constituted.


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