Towards a sustainable sanitation solution: research scholarships on FSM


During the last 10 years, Bangladesh successfully reduced open defecation to less than 1%. Alongside this, the rate of urbanisation has been increasing at an annual rate of 3.23% (World Bank, 2018). Accelerated urbanisation is accompanied by ever-increasing amounts of faecal sludge released in the environment. On its own, improved sewerage cannot solve this problem. The scholarships, which will be awarded by SNV in Bangladesh, hope to attract scholars who can contribute innovative and alternative sanitation solutions for application in urban Bangladesh.

The state of sanitation

About 2.7 billion people worldwide are dependent on on-site sanitation facilities. Over 4.5 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation services. In the recent years, and within the South Asian region, Bangladesh has been showing considerable progress in improving the country’s access to sanitation. Despite this, a system that manages faecal sludge safely is lacking. As a result, faecal waste ends up in the surrounding areas or in downstream vicinities, causing significant health and environmental impacts.

Whilst sewerage construction may appear a probable solution for urban sanitation, it is not the only one, especially when population densities in urban areas are considered. The lack of space aside, sewerage alone is not a viable solution, financially and strategically. Through the Government of Bangladesh’s approval of the Institutional and Regulatory Framework (IRF) for Faecal Sludge Management (FSM), the country is now taking an enormous step to deliver to the population’s sanitation needs.

City-wide inclusive sanitation services (CWISE)

SNV is an active participant/contributor to Bangladesh’s urban sanitation efforts: first through its recently concluded “Demonstration of pro-poor market-based solutions for faecal sludge management in urban centres of southern Bangladesh” project (2014-17), and currently – through its CWISE programme (1). Implemented across three cities (Khulna City Corporation, Kushtia and Jhenaidah Paurashavas), significant impacts have been made to raise stakeholder FSM knowledge and awareness. At local levels, important building blocks had been put in place, i.e., organised mechanical and manual emptier communities, occupational health and safety guidance for emptying, and long-term treatment option plans/designs for FSM – all made possible through SNV’s formative research and behavioural change communication strategies.

Endorsed by local and national government authorities, SNV’s evidence was instrumental in developing the national IRF-FSM. The framework is currently being piloted across Bangladesh, and is expected to play a significant role in informing the country’s urban sanitation efforts. The framework is closely aligned with the government’s objectives of promoting public health and social progress and broadening the scope for economic opportunities.

Youth engagement in FSM

SNV believes that youth have a major role to play in taking the futures of societies to more sustainable and resilient paths. In the context of urban sanitation, youth represent a hidden wealth of resource and wisdom in developing out-of-the box and realistic solutions to the safe management of faecal sludge.

To encourage youth participation, the Khulna City Corporation (KCC), Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET), Khulna University (KU) and SNV jointly developed a scholarship programme for graduate students from KU and KUET in 2016. The programme, with funding from the Gates Foundation, attracts meritorious students who through their academic learning offers insights into many long-standing FSM challenges. The programme’s scholars carry out research in the multi-dimensional aspects of FSM.

During the first scholarship round, a total of eight students from Khulna University and Khulna University of Engineering and Technology completed their respective research [2]. The second scholarship round is set to be announced by both universities towards the end of the month. The scholarships that will be awarded will span over a period of three semesters (maximum), based on course curriculum and research contents.

[1] The CWISE programme covers two urban sanitation projects on city-wide safe management in Bangladesh. Urban sanitation activities in Khulna, Jhenaidah and Kushtia receive generous funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Activities in the cities of Jashore, Benapole and Gazipur are supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands-funded multi-country consortium programme, WASH SDGs.
[2] The next blog will feature the contributions made by past scholars.

Contributor: Fatema Tuz Johora (Business Development, Advocacy and Communications Advisor)
Banner photo: Exposure visit at the Shakhipur FSTP (Tafsirul Islam/Khulna University)