Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Dana Carris makes this connection in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This current event was reported in the Dhaka Tribune on January 12, 2018, under the title “Water and sanitation crisis unfolds in Rohingya camps”, by Abdul Aziz. This article contains statistics and interviews regarding the Rohingya camps established in the Cox’s bazar district of Bangladesh, which was featured in Time Magazine Article on November 23, 2017.

Beginning in late August 2017, the Myanmar military began a vendetta against the Rohingya people living in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Approximately 1.2 million Rohingya people fled over the border to Bangladesh and have been allocated 3,000 acres of forest in the Cox’s Bazar district. Hastily made toilets, a lapse in sewage management, and poorly planned well drilling has created a health crisis for the residents of the 12 camps. This story relates directly to water resources engineering in the fields of wastewater management and groundwater supply systems. As part of international relief efforts, tube wells were installed to provide clean water, and toilets were installed. Local authorities claim these wells were drilled in an unplanned manner, where multiple wells exist in the same location and none in some areas of need (Aziz, 2018). The wells were installed during the rainy season when water levels were high and now the water table has dropped, putting the wells out of order. The lack of toilets and poor planning has lead to overflowing sewage and water stagnation in some parts of the camp, causing horrendous odor (Aziz, 2018). To properly install the wells, the government should have examined the groundwater hydrology and drilled below the water table level expected in the dry season.

Figure 1:Rohingya refugees line up for water at a refugee camp near Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh.

Figure 2:Children play around polluted water streaming through Kutupalong unofficial camp, where an estimated 20,000 people are living.

The water quality concerns at the Rohingya camps pose many problems for the refugees, humanitarian workers, and all organizations involved in the response. The poor distribution of wells, and the lack of water during the dry season is causing people to travel great distances for clean water, or drink contaminated water (Figure 1). Standing water and overflowing toilets are increase the risk for water borne diseases such as cholera and provide a breeding ground for mosquitos and other vectors (Figure 2). The poor planning of wells and sewage management is causing the government to invest in new wells and redevelop sanitary installations at the camps. If these provisions were installed correctly the first time, the money used for these installations could have been directed towards additional food and medical supplies. Likewise, more money will need to be spent on medical supplies to treat the people getting sick from the water. In addition to the societal and economic impacts of this crisis, the large number of wells being used in this area will affect the ground water and potentially surface water hydrology as the aquifers are drawn down from overuse. The aquifers may also be recharged with the unmanaged wastewater and contaminate the drinking water for the camps. This same waste water may pollute surrounding water bodies with nutrients and bacterium, as is common with leaky septic tanks (Hayes, 1990).


Aziz, A. (2018, January 12). Water and sanitation crisis unfolds in Rohingya camps. Retrieved February 06, 2018, from http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/nation/2018/01/13/water-sanitation-crisis-unfolds-rohingya-camps/

Solomon, F. (2017, November 23). Rohingya Refugees: Myanmar’s Crisis Is Bangladesh’s Burden. Retrieved February 06, 2018, from http://time.com/5031342/bangladesh-myanmar-rohingya-refugee-crisis/

Hayes, S., Newland, L., Morgan, K., & Dean, K. (1990). Septic tank and agricultural non‐point source pollution within a rural watershed [Abstract]. Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, 26(1-4), 137-155. doi:10.1080/02772249009357541

News, V. (2017, September 16). Bangladesh Government to Build Camp for 400,000 Rohingya Muslim Refugees. Retrieved February 06, 2018, from https://www.voanews.com/a/bangladesh-government-to-build-camp-for-400000-rohingya-muslims-who-fled-myanmar/4031861.html

Bangladesh: The Rohingya Moved From One Deplorable Situation to Another. (2009, June 10). Retrieved February 06, 2018, from http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/field-news/bangladesh-rohingya-moved-one-deplorable-situation-another