© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen

Clean Drinking Water from the Skies Above

© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen

Climate change, deforestation and shrimp farming are increasing the salinity of the soil and groundwater in southern Bangladesh. Helvetas enables disadvantaged populations to collect rainwater in cisterns and filter basins to store clean drinking water for the dry season. Helvetas also demonstrates ways families can improve their diet.

  • Project Name
    Panii Jibon: Rainwater for Clean Drinking Water and Food Security
  • Project Phase
    2016 to 2020
  • Funding
    This project is funded by donations and the Climate Justice Resilience Fund.
  • Thematic focus
    Environment and Climate Change

When soil and groundwater become saline

The Ganges Delta, also known as the Green Delta for its high fertility, in southwestern Bangladesh could be a farmer’s paradise, where crops can be grown and harvested several times a year. However, climate change, deforestation of the protective mangroves and massive-scale shrimp farming have upset the balance of nature. Seawater is intruding further and further inland, exacerbating groundwater salinity. Helvetas provides support of the most essential kind for distressed farming families in the Bagerhat district, namely: drinking water and food.

Now that the groundwater has become more saline, rain is the only source of potable drinking water. People used to resort to dirty surface water during the dry season.

© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
The cement containers for collecting rainwater are cheaply produced by a small local company. Poor families receive a subsidy from Helvetas for their purchase. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
The vessels are entirely handmade and the production is done surprisingly fast. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
The form elements that give each rainwater pot its shape are removed after the outer layer has dried. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
The company delivers the containers directly to the house. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
Since the rainwater jar is relatively light and can be easily rolled, it can easily be taken to houses off the road. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
A gutter in the form of a cut open plastic pipe collects water from the corrugated sheet metal roof. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
The employee of the local construction company explains to the population how they can ensure that the water in the vessel remains clean and safe. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
The expert also explains to the new owner how to clean the inside of the pot himself. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
To do this, the father of the family, freshly washed and protected by his feet, must go into the pot himself. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
© Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen
There he rubs out the lemon juice jar. The manufacturer will come by every year for ten years and use measuring instruments to check whether the water quality is good. © Helvetas / Simon B. Opladen

In our Panii Jibon (“Water Is Life”) project, we provide extremely poor families (with an income of less than $1.25 per day) two cement tanks, which are inexpensively made by local craftsmen. Modelled on traditional receptacles, the two round tanks can store 2,000 liters of water, enough to cover a family’s basic requirements during the dry season. Where possible and practicable, we also provide support for the construction of communal reservoirs with sand filter pumps. Over the next few years, another 50,000 people will be able to secure their drinking water supply for the dry season. 14,000 people will also receive new latrines.

Farmers are also building large rainwater basins to irrigate their fields and gardens. With this water they can grow and sell more crops, and improve their diet. The fish they raise in the basins are a supplementary boost to their nutrition. In the years to come, 35,000 families should be eating a healthier diet thanks to rainwater basins.

Another important objective of the project is for the authorities and the people to acknowledge affordable access to clean drinking water as a basic right. Helvetas trains communities to request that the government fulfil its duties and ensure that drinking water is available to all. In committees they participate in the planning of water projects and make sure they are properly implemented. Since people are organized into farmers’ groups, local development does not depend solely on individual commitment, but on support from the community.

«The water from the pond isn’t clean and the groundwater has gone salty. That’s why we now collect rainwater to keep our children healthy.»

Protap Mazumder, a tailor and father in Morrelganj, Bangladesh

Environment and Climate Change

Every year, we support over 1,000,000 people adapt to climate change, reduce the risks of disasters, sustainably manage natural resources, and conserve nature.

How Helvetas Supports People in Bangladesh

Helvetas helps farmers in Bangladesh prepare for climate change and promotes political participation, especially among women.

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