New Dutch funding for a sustainable urban water cycle in Bangladesh

Netherlands government invests in sanitation improvements in twelve additional cities in Bangladesh to enhance urban water cycles.

A picture of the urban water cycle in a Bangladeshi city

The Netherlands has provided funding for an SNV project that will enhance water security in Bangladesh. Working with the government of Bangladesh, SNV will contribute to improving sanitation, solid waste, and drainage water management to protect the health and well-being of city populations. The project will be conducted over the course of five years in twelve locations, with a budget of € 6.4 million.

Bangladesh’s unique challenges

The quality of life in Bangladeshi cities is already affected by rapid urbanisation and inadequate services. Cities with inadequate sanitation, waste, and drainage systems are particularly at risk. A heavy downpour can turn swiftly into a devastating event and public health threat, affecting low-income settlements, ecosystems, and life in general. Bangladesh's waterways are currently polluted. This, in turn, has an impact on the water resources that rural communities rely on.

Rethink, reform, and enhance

Urbanisation and climate change have a profound impact on our way of life. The SNV Country Director for Bangladesh, Ismène Stalpers, said that we must all learn to adapt to our new reality. ‘In SNV, we believe that we must rethink, reform, and enhance institutional structures to lessen the impact of climate threats, for example, in improving the capacity and preparedness of cities to respond to flooding and droughts.’ She continued, ‘In order to do this, we must seek ways to improve the governance and practices of the waste management and water supply sectors.’

A way forward for more sustainable cities

Private sector engagement plays a key role in creating more sustainable cities, but only if public-private partnerships (PPPs) are well structured and there is capacity for oversight. Antoinette Kome, SNV Global Sector Head for Water, asserts that ‘Accountability, performance, and oversight in particular have been lacking, as PPPs were too often seen as a way to offload the responsibility of overburdened government entities.’ She added, ‘SNV has been working with different stakeholders to set up PPPs with clearer rules of engagement and oversight. Strengthening accountability for performance has been the core of our strategy.’

Agreeing with Kome, Folkert G.J. de Jager, First Secretary for Water Management & Food Security, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Dhaka added, ‘SNV’s PPP approach is making the Bangladeshi urban water and waste cycle management increasingly more resilient and adaptive to climate change.’

SNV has been active in Bangladesh for almost ten years. In that time, together with government partners, SNV built faecal sludge treatment facilities in Southern Bangladeshi cities, promoted safe, affordable, and scheduled emptying, supported sanitation workers’ rights to occupational health and safety, and introduced data management techniques and tools to aid in and enhance the responsiveness of service delivery.

Shahidul Islam, Project Manager of the ‘Transitioning to sustainable urban water cycles in Bangladesh,’ remarked that ‘SNV has been a critical ally of the government since 2014. We are grateful to the Dutch and Bangladesh governments for their confidence in our approach and their enthusiasm in taking our learning to scale.’

The funding will allow SNV to expand proven urban sanitation initiatives to twelve more cities. The necessary sanitation, drainage, and solid waste management service providers and authorities will be gathered to co-design improvements in the creation of water resource management indicators for cities, leveraging local government collaboration to aid in the transition.

For further information on the project, please contact Shahidul Islam.