Australian WASH support extended to focus on climate resilience

Champhone district resident drawing water stored in container (Bart Verweij for SNV)

SNV received a two-year, AU$ 6 million fund extension from the Australian government’s flagship Water for Women Fund programme. Together with its partners in government, local civil society, ISF-UTS, IWMI, and CBM Australia, SNV will further progress inclusive access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in Bhutan, Lao PDR, and Nepal, strengthening national and local government capacities to adapt to the climate crisis and growing water security challenges.

The fund extension was announced during the week by Water for Women at the Australian Pavilion of COP 27. This funding demonstrates the government’s commitment to and recognition of WASH as a precursor to climate resilience.

Reaching ‘last mile populations’

In Bhutan and Lao PDR access to better sanitation and hygiene services has increased steadily over time, with Australian funding. For instance, Bhutan is preparing to celebrate a 12-year sanitation campaign milestone, which has culminated with 100% access to improved sanitation by the end of the year.

‘For more than ten years, SNV has been working in close partnership with the Government of Bhutan insupport of a shared vision in sanitation,’ said the

Multi-country Programme Manager, Gabrielle Halcrow. ‘The Water for Women Fund's emphasis on gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) as a means and an outcome of development programming - in Bhutan, as well as Lao PDR and Nepal - allowed the partnership to reach "last mile" populations to leave no-one behind,’ she noted.

Enabling effective community management

For Nepal, Ami Reza, Country Director of SNV in Nepal and Bhutan, proudly shared that the team has made great headway in reviving, making more inclusive, and better structuring community-based management of water sources. She added, ‘our experience tells us that whose voices are heard and whose problems are shared provide local government with the tools and information to make the right decisions. As such, it is fundamental to build community resilience as our climate changes around us.’

What next?

The necessary elements are already present to ensure the success of climate-resilient rural WASH services. What is critical, explained Shane Wilkes, SNV’s Water Sector Leader for Lao PDR, ‘is for countries like Lao PDR to build the institutional foundations and capacity to adapt to the increasing risks of droughts, floods, and severe storm events so that WASH systems continue to effectively provide services.’

The multi-country project will support national efforts to improve the climate resilience of WASH services over the course of the next two years.

  • In the low-lying region of rural Lao PDR, basic access to sanitation remains a priority, yet there is a need to promote the design of flood-resilient toilets and facilitate sector alignment in disaster risk reduction, in addition to engaging water quality challenges.

  • In Bhutan, despite its success, SNV research indicated that water scarcity is endangering hygiene standards, pour-flush toilet longevity, and water quality. Furthermore, improperly maintained pits and septic tanks increase the potential of a public health outbreak, especially in regions where landslides are common.

  • Last but not least, despite the fact that water is referenced in a number of climate policies and plans in Nepal, research by UTS-ISF and SNV highlighted that there is limited ability to operationalise these at local levels. The partnership has been able to resurrect community-based management and create a multi-stakeholder leadership model for water resources inside rural municipalities with the help of Water for Women Fund support over the years. Building their capacity to manage water resources successfully into the future, against the backdrop of climate change effects, is crucial.

Through this fund extension, the Australian government has expressed with great clarity its position that gender equality, disability, and social inclusion within climate responses must not be forgotten.

Photo: Champhone district resident drawing water stored in a container (Bart Verweij for SNV)

Want to know more?

Or perhaps you're interested to explore a collaboration with our team?

We'd love to hear from you! Send an email to Gabrielle Halcrow, Multi-country Programme Manager of the Australian Government-supported Beyond the Finish Line multi-country programme in Bhutan, Lao PDR, and Nepal.