Urban Sanitation in Bangladesh: Results of pro-poor market-based solutions for faecal sludge management

water collection in peri-urban areas

Bangladesh is situated in a green delta, squeezed in between the peaks of the Himalaya and the waves of the Indian Ocean. For times immemorable this flat country faced regular flooding. While this flooding continues, what has changed is the population; it tripled from 45 million in 1950 to a whopping 175 million nowadays, making Bangladesh a densely populated country.

In terms of access to sanitation, Bangladesh has progressed tremendously. Open defecation has dropped from 18% in 2000 to 1% in 2015 (estimated by JMP), and in general, city people have access to some kind of latrine, but the main problem concerned is what happens to the management of human waste after the use of such facilities.

With hardly any sewage system, and no treatment of faecal sludge coming from latrines, most faeces ends up in the environment untreated - polluting the soil and surrounding waterways. It is a largely unseen, but a pretty serious problem if you realize that when water levels rise (as they do all too often), people literally wade through their own shit. This unsafe disposing of faecal sludge exacerbates health risks for the entire population

In 2014, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) partnered with SNV to tackle this issue of growing concern. With over 50 years of sanitation expertise, we knew there would be no quick fixes; the gigantic proportions of this challenge will only increase because migration to the city continues. Meanwhile development actors traditionally focus on rural environments, ending defecation in the open by stimulating pit latrines. Latrines, however are only the first step towards safe urban sanitation. Engaging with all relevant actors - and the city authorities in the driver’s seat- would be key to ensuring the management of faecal sludge in a systematic manner.

About this progress report

In December 2017, SNV Bangladesh will complete the first phase of the faecal sludge management (FSM)[1] programme in the cities of Khulna, Kushtia and Jhenaidah Paurashava in Bangladesh. The programme started after several months of careful preparation with our partners: the local government institutions, two local universities, Water Utility, and WaterAid. The programme is unique, in the sense that it integrates all key elements of city-wide urban sanitation service delivery, plus the change process that is necessary to achieve effective services. The first phase focussed on preparing the city authorities, whereas the next phase (starting from January 2018) will ensure Citywide Inclusive Sanitation Engagement.

This update documents our first results on our way to city-wide, pro-poor, accountable, safe and sustainable FSM services. These services will contribute to improved living environments, health, and well-being of the urban population.

At the start of the project, faecal sludge management (FSM) was new in Bangladesh. Knowledge at NGO and government level was limited; projects only addressed part of the FSM value chain, such as access to toilets, handwashing, or emptying of containment. Institutionally, there were legal instruments to implement or review Onsite Sanitation Services (OSS) at national and local level but governance was weak due to lack of expertise and resources. We embarked on a journey to change this and this helped us develop our product ‘urban sanitation and hygiene for health and development.’ This product consists of the following components:

  • Consumer behaviour change and demand creation for sludge emptying services;

  • Safe and affordable sanitation services;

  • Governance, regulations and enforcement;

  • Improved treatment, disposal and re-use of sludge.

Expected results

  • 250,000 additional people have improved access to sanitation facilities that are environmentally safe

  • One million people enjoy an improved living environment and access to FSM services

  • Sector stakeholders, including local authorities from at least two additional cities or towns agree to replicate key elements of the FSM approach

Let us take you along on our journey by showing our results per component.

Read the Next Chapter - Component 1

Read the Next Chapter - Component 2

Read the Next Chapter - Component 3

Read the Next Chapter - Component 4