Accepted Papers:

Groundwater and pataler pani in Dhaka  


Hasan Ashraf (Jahangirnagar University)

Paper Short Abstract:

In Dhaka groundwater is an ever scarcer resource that pumped up with diesel and electric water pumps. It's extraction has exhausted pataler pani, water much closer to the surface that used to be accessed with the help of manual wells and hand tube wells.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is about the contrast between 'groundwater' and pataler pani. Groundwater is an ever scarcer resource that in Dhaka may be located by geologists and that water engineers help to extract from the earth with ever deepening diesel and electric water pumps. Pataler pani by contrast was closer to the surface and used to be accessed with the help of manual wells (kua and idara) and hand tube wells. Heavy engineered groundwater extraction, in combination with urban 'land making' through filling water bodies, low- and wet-land within the Dhaka flood protection dykes with sand, has exhausted pataler pani. It also brought with it the decay of natural canals and teks (sand blocks); while a lot of surface water is no longer rejuvenated with upstream nuton pani (fresh water). This leaves agricultural land bereft of natural sedimentation and turns the surface water into kala-pani (rotten still water). Groundwater extraction has also eradicated a range of care practices through which people in Dhaka used to care for ponds, canals and jheels that provided them with water for drinking, cooking, bathing, washing animals and water transport. All in all, this is a sad story about some of the ways in which a Dhaka life centred around flowing water now only exists in vibrant memories of a generation ago.

Panel A14
In other words: caring for water