Three cities in Bangladesh pave the way for more inclusive sanitation services

Three cities in Bangladesh pave the way for more inclusive sanitation services

The Bill & Melinda Gates-funded project ‘Pro-poor Market-based Solutions for Faecal Sludge Management in Urban Centres of Southern Bangladesh’ concluded its first phase in December 2017. Last January 2018 SNV entered its next phase of urban sanitation partnership with the Gates Foundation through the latter’s ‘City Wide Inclusive Sanitation Engagement’ (CWISE) initiative.

CWISE ‘supports local governments and institutions for city wide sanitation services, and provides tailored support for the implementation of safe and inclusive sanitation services' (SuSaNa, 2017). For the second phase of our project, our efforts will focus on potentially disadvantaged groups. These include low-income slum dwellers, women and girls: to make sure that they benefit equitably from sanitation progress.

In April 2018, the Khulna City Corporation affirmed SNV’s focus and activities for phase two through a MoU.

Looking back: phase one achievements

During phase one 250,000 people gained access to environmentally-safe sanitation facilities, thereby improving the environmental conditions of one million people. With our government and CSO partners, we:

  • Increased demand for sanitation services. In the cities where we work, more residents now know that sanitation services exist, and there is heightened awareness on how to access these. The government-led sanitation campaign, with the slogan ‘Dear! Empty your septic tank once a year,’ was key to raising awareness. Parallel to this, our research study on consumers’ willingness to pay for safe sanitation validated that there is market demand for services.

  • Increased the availability of safer and affordable sanitation services by introducing an ‘end-to-end desludging service with a call centre, a household database, safe mechanical emptying, transport and a treatment facility.’ Similarly, we sought to improve the working conditions of manual pit emptiers. Business models are now being piloted in more depth, involving the Federation of Community Development Committees.

  • Established and enforced regulations. Evidence from our field engagement has been instrumental in informing the development of the national government’s Institutional and Regulatory Framework (IRF) for Faecal Sludge Management (FSM). Today the IRF serves as a guideline for local government institutions and non-government actors in providing sanitation services.

  • Launched a proper treatment disposal and re-use unit. We established a faecal sludge plant that treats sludge up to the point where it can safely be re-used to fertilise soil. As demand grows, the gradual expansion of services is likely to occur.

Scaling up an inclusive city-wide sanitation approach: phase two

The health and environmental impacts of poor sanitation services are not limited to a specific area. In densely populated cities, a health outbreak in one area can easily spread across the city. This is why a city-wide sanitation approach is essential. The safe handling of human excreta from the point of collection to disposal or re-use, must benefit the entire city and adjoining peri-urban areas.

Understandably, sanitation services in cities will vary depending on factors like geographical location, population segments, etc. In the past months we have been designing different types of sanitation interventions, e.g., low-income communities, hospitals, schools, market places and public toilets.

Public toilet investment plans for the cities of Khulna, Kushtia and Jhenaidah have been completed. Currently all cities are developing their own project proposals to generate funding from potential donors, including the national government.

High interest to learn from our success at the slum area ward 10 has prompted us to document our experience and transform this into a user-friendly manual for city governments. This forthcoming manual will offer a uniform approach for slums in the entire city. It is also expected to support in the interface between sanitation and broader slum infrastructure planning and development.

Many phase one project activities will carry on to ensure that no-one is left behind and services are sustained in the long term.

  • Our ambition is to make Khulna a model city for CWISE programme implementation

  • In the cities of Jhenaidah and Kushtiah where demand for sanitation services has exceeded or reached maximum capacity, we’re aiming to double the amount of treated human waste.

  • Through our membership in the Bangladesh FSM Network, we will contribute to the development of the national guidance on urban sanitation and the implementation of safe and inclusive slum sanitation services for low-income communities, in partnership with the National Urban Poverty Reduction Program (NUPRP).

  • Technical support to the Municipal Association of Bangladesh will continue, specifically on their project Municipalities Network Advocacy on Sanitation in South Asia, supported by United Cities and Local Government.

Banner photo: At the Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant in Khulna where safer and more professionalised sanitation services are increasingly becoming more available (Sayed Asif Mahmud/Pathshala South Asian Photo Academy for SNV)