Lessons learned from a desludging campaign in Khulna, Bangladesh

Lessons learned from a desludging campaign in Khulna, Bangladesh

In the last week of May 2016, SNV Bangladesh organised a desludging campaign in two wards of Khulna City Corporation together with the Community Development Committee (CDC),

The purpose of the campaign was to test the organisation, price and operations of a mechanised emptying service by the CDC in Khulna. By initiating several of the tests, we aimed to optimise the business models for Khulna's context. After two days of promotion at the household level, the demand for the desludging service had raised among 15 households. As an extra incentive for availing the service, the households who requested the service were offered a giftbag containing a toilet brush, toilet cleaning liquid and a soap bar. The promotion days were followed by several days of desludging operational activities with SNV observing the activities to learn from the operations.

Lessons learned include:

  • The summer afternoons in Bangladesh can be too hot to do the emptying work and emptiers get tired very fast. An alternative to this may be to change the summer working hours: start early in the morning, take a break during lunch and restart at the end of the afternoon, working until dark.

  • It would be useful to introduce a vacutug coordinator, with CDC organising such a campaign and managing the vacutugs.

  • Time efficiency is a major factor for improvement. At the moment, a lot of time is wasted on opening the manhole, talking to the home owner, moving hoses etc. All these tasks could be performed by a prepping team before the vacutug arrives. Ideally, the vacutug should only empty and drive to the treatment plant.

  • Many septic tanks are located lower than the drains, which is why water from the drains fills up the septic tank. Upgrading the outlet pipe is necessary here.

These lessons will now be taken forward by adapting the business model and testing it again in a next phase at the end of July 2016.

The CDC is a community organisation that was initiated as part of the Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction Programme (UPPR) of UNDP. Each ward has a CDC with the main purpose to empower communities, particularly women, to find solutions for poverty issues in the urban areas they live in. The CDC's tasks revolve around the provision of financial services for the poor in the communities. In Khulna there are three 1000L vacutugs that the CDCs can use, a good starting point for testing the mechanical emptying service.