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Sanitation in Bangladesh


									                      SANITATION IN BANGLADESH
                        Danida Water Sector Seminar, Ghana, February 2006


Country Background
Bangladesh, with a population of about 140 Million and an area of 147,570 km2 has an extremely high population
density. Administratively it is divided into 6 Divisions, 64 Districts and approximately 4,500 Unions. Its poor
population is about 50% of which about 20% are hardcore poor. It has one of the most vulnerable economies,
characterized by low resource base and high incidence of natural disasters, which have adverse implications for
long term savings, investment and growth.
The progress achieved by the country shows rapid improvements in the following fields: (i) Impressive success in
the field of population control which was achieved at a low level of income as well as a low level of literacy (from
2.9 per cent growth per annum in mid-seventies to 1.5 per cent in the late-nineties); (ii) Substantial reduction of
infant and child mortality; (iii) Success in the field of disaster preparedness and overcoming the phenomena of
mass starvation, e.g. through increased rice production; (iv) Reduction of child malnutrition rates; (v) Success in
mainstreaming women into the development process; (vi) The emergence of strong vocal civic institutions that
play an important role in organizing the poor and; (vii) Progress towards a viable democratic transition.

Water Supply and Sanitation Policy
The objectives of the 1998 Bangladesh National Policy for Safe Water Supply and Sanitation (NPSWSS) are to
improve the standard of public health and to ensure improved environment. Specific goals are the following: (i)
increasing the coverage of safe water in rural areas; (ii) one sanitary latrine for each household in rural areas; (iii)
sanitary latrines within easy access of urban households through technology options; (iv) making safe water
available in urban areas; (v) supply of arsenic free drinking water and; (vi) removal of solid and liquid waste in
urban areas.
The importance of improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is recognized by their inclusion as
specific targets in the framework of the MDGs. Water, sanitation and hygiene improvements are also perceived
as having a major potential in contributing to other MDG targets. In that respect the GOB has taken a step
further that countrywide 100% sanitation should have been achieved by 2010, ahead of the MDGs.
A Sector Development Framework (SDF) was completed in May 2004 and a Sector Development Programme
(SDP) is under preparation. A national Sanitation Strategy was approved in February 2005. Further grassroots
consultation has been initiated by the civil society and NGOs complementary to Government initiatives.
The National Policy for Safe Water Supply and Sanitation, 1998 provides for a „safety-net‟ for hardcore poor in
conjunction with reducing subsidies over time, which has been translated into operational guidelines in the Pro-
Poor Strategy for the WSS Sector issued in February 2005. For sanitation, the basic minimum service level
defines „one hygienic latrine‟ per household. Except for community latrines, subsidized with 80%, no subsidy for
sanitation exists. However local bodies are expected to spend 20% of the ADP (annual development plan)
allocation towards promotion of sanitation facilities for hardcore poor, women and disabled and can be used for
hard- as well as software activities. Also DPHE is still implementing a sanitation programme involving subsidies.

Institutional Framework

Public WSS Sector
Together with the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Local Government, Rural
Development and Cooperatives (MLGRDC) is charged with the tasks of policy decisions, sectoral allocation,
funding, project appraisals, approval, evaluation and monitoring of the Bangladeshi WSS sector. The functional
responsibility lies with the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE).
DPHE is the main GOB player and mandated to do the planning, designing, implementing and monitoring of
WSS projects in both rural as well as urban areas, except for Dhaka, Chittagong, Rashahi and Khulna, which

have their own water and sewerage authorities and some towns (pourashavas) dealt by the LGED. Its main focus
is on technical aspects.

Local government
The management of O&M of water management systems is the responsibility of user groups in the rural areas.
In each Union, the lowest administrative tier administered by a Union Parishad, and each Pourashava (town)
there is a Watsan Committee mandated to establish community-based infrastructure for the promotion and
monitoring of sanitation and hygiene activities. However these committees are often not very active.
According to the 1977 Pourashava Ordinance and the 1983 Union Ordinance these local government
institutions have been mandated the responsibility of WSS; it has been suggested that DPHE‟s responsibility
should alter from an implementing to a more facilitating role.
Since October 2004 Union Parishads are in charge of UP Development Funds (UPDFs) to which allocations are
deposited directly. However most works still are being executed from Central (ADP) block-grants, which are
administered at the sub-district level by Upazilas.

The NGO sector
The NGO sector in Bangladesh is very extensive and influential. The major ones provide an alternative to
government services in some specific fields. They are involved in micro-credit, education, awareness raising in
the fields of social rights, health and family planning. The three major ones the Bangladesh Rural Advancement
Committee (BRAC), Grameen Bank and the Association for Social Advancement (ASA) have nearly 100,000
staff each and cover major parts of the country with their activities. Of these only BRAC is active in WSS. Apart
from these larger NGOs, Bangladesh has a huge web of smaller NGOs. Within the Watsan sector alone there
are more than 100 small NGOs active, mostly based on projects. The main Bangladeshi national NGOs involved
in Watsan are DSK, Proshika and Village Education Resource Centre (VERC). The apex NGO for WSS is
NGO-Forum, which has about 600 NGOs, CBOs and private sector partners.
International NGOs active in WSS are WaterAid, IDE, DASCOH, CARE and Plan-International.

Private sector
The GOB WSS policy recognizes the need for private sector involvement to lessen the burden of GOB. GOB
therefore stimulates an enabling environment for private sector participation. The demand for sanitary latrines
has been stimulated by GOB as well as by NGOs. This resulted in a relatively active private sanitation sector
with approximately 6,000 private sanitary latrine producers.

Research institutes and training networks
ITN (International Training Network) is an international network of knowledge and skill development in WSS.
ITN Bangladesh is established at the Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology (BUET). The primary
goal of ITN-Bangladesh is to achieve an improved human resource base that promotes sustainable development
of WSS. It is mainly concerned with capacity building. The ITN Centre intends to act as a bridge between
academic & research centres and the management and implementing organizations. Apart from ITN-Bangladesh
a number of other research institutes and training networks like the Bangladesh Institute for Development
Studies are also involved in WSS sector related research and training activities. Further NGO-Forum is setting up
a national resource centre (NRC) in cooperation with the IRC Netherlands.

International donors
Multilateral agencies like WB, ADB, UNDP, WHO, the Islamic Development Bank and UNICEF play an
important role in the WSS sector. The major bilateral donors in the WSS sector are DFID, Danida, Netherlands
Government, Japan (JICA and JBIC), CIDA and USAID. The Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) of the
WB plays an important role in the discussion on major issues regarding the WSS sector.

Local Consultative Group (LCG) sub-group on WS
Development partners have formed a Local Consultative Group (LCG). The LCG sub-group on WSS has been
expanded to include government and NGOs, with an aim to ensure sector co-ordination and policy formulation,
preparation and implementation. Its main functions are consultations and dissemination of new sector

developments. It has no further authority and only comments and makes recommendations to concerned
ministries, on issues such as MDGs, PRSP, SDF, PSP, etc.

The active involvement of the communities and community leaders has been substantial, without which the
progress of the last years could not have been accomplished. In particular the Community Lead Total Sanitation
(CLTS) programmes have been successful regarding impact and sustainability.

The National Strategy for Economic Growth, Poverty Reduction and Social Development (Economic Relations
Division, Ministry of Finance, GOB, March 2003), as Interim-PRSP, states that Bangladesh having one of the
most vulnerable economies, being once dubbed as “the test case of development” could achieve a wide range of
social and economic successes.
The Interim PRSP for Bangladesh of 2003 hardly paid attention to the issue of water supply and sanitation. Even
in the health related paragraphs the relation between water supply, sanitation, hygiene improvement and
improved living conditions and health hardly got any attention. The WSS strategies and objectives were not
reflected in the I-PRSP‟s vision and were not represented in the medium-term policy for poverty reduction. The
LCG sub-group, WaterAid and others subsequently submitted a number of papers to government with the
consequence that the first draft of the full PRSP, titled „Unlocking the Potential – National Strategy for
Accelerated Poverty Reduction‟ (December 2004) identifies water and sanitation as one of seven priority areas.
The final PRSP was approved late 2005.

The present version gives far more importance to WSS. It emphasizes the role of the WSS sector in relation to
poverty reduction. WSS is also seen to be an important requirement for ensuring participation, social inclusion
and empowerment of women, children, tribal people and disabled. The present draft also gives much attention
to critical cross cutting issues.
Specific goals, targets and priorities for WSS interventions are incorporated in the PRSP‟s medium-term policy
matrices of several other sub-sectors, including water resources development & management; education; health,
population, nutrition, water and sanitation and food safety; children advancement and rights; and environment
and sustainable development. WSS is furthermore seen to be an important requirement for ensuring
participation, social inclusion and empowerment of in particular children, tribal people and disabled.

Multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies as well as NGOs all provide support to the sector. For all agencies, a project
mode is the most common form for aid delivery mechanism. There is only little progress towards a sector-wide
approach and there is no indication that a true SWAp will be introduced soon. The lack of joint procedures for
the development partners is a constraint for government‟s ownership and administration of the sector. A Sector
Development Framework (SDF) (May 2004) identified several major obstacles for the WSS sector, including lack
of sector co-ordination within the sector, and a Sector Development Programme (SDP), to deal with these
issues, is under preparation.
In the absence of a comprehensive SDP/SWAp, and as long as also the development partners themselves are
not yet in a position to fully harmonize their policies, rules and regulations, a „next best‟ approach has been to try
to identify and then jointly support specific elements within the existing sector development framework which
enjoy sufficient „sector-wide‟ interest among key sector stakeholders.

The ongoing National Sanitation Campaign initiated in 2003 constitutes an example of such an approach. The
campaign, initiated by the Government under the leadership of the Minister for Local Government, Rural
Development and Cooperatives, involves a wide range of development partners, NGOs, local government
institutions and also private sector. Planning, coordination and monitoring of activities takes place through
formally established task forces at national, regional and local levels. The campaign, which includes elements of
strategy development, advocacy, awareness creation, hygiene promotion, social marketing, investments, baseline
surveys and monitoring, etc., furthermore provided the framework for the Government and a large number of
sector stakeholders to identify and use alternative avenues for collaboration, (basket) funding, joint reviews, etc.

Public Sector Reform Process
The public administration reform process makes little progress in most fields. Decentralization is only slowly
getting off the ground. Sector planning lacks a mechanism for participatory planning with Local Government
Institutions and users input. This planning process remains centralized. The GOB decision to allocate ADP
funds for development at local UP level since October 2004 is an important step towards decentralization of
decision making and funding towards the local level. Danida supports the decentralization process through
capacity building at UP level.

Danida Involvement
Danida has been involved in support to the water supply and sanitation activities in Bangladesh since 1972.
Since 1989, Bangladesh has been a priority country for Danish bilateral development assistance and from 1994,
in accordance with the Strategy for Danish-Bangladesh Cooperation, water supply and sanitation has been one of
the three sectors of concentration for Danish assistance in Bangladesh.
The Danish Sector Programme Support (SPS-I) to the Water Supply and Sanitation sector in Bangladesh
commenced in July 1999 and ended in December 2005. A second SPS (SPS-II) started in January 2006 with the
same development objective as for SPS-I as contained in the National Policy for Safe Drinking Water Supply and
Sanitation 1998, i.e., to contribute to poverty reduction through improved standard of public health and an
improved, sustainable environment.

The immediate objectives are:
1.     To improve hygiene behaviour and practices.
2.     To promote community-led sanitation activities.
3.     To increase the coverage of safe water supply services for the poor.
4.     To strengthen the capacity of government, local government institutions and non-government
       stakeholders at all levels to play the roles required to achieve the above three immediate objectives.
5.     To promote greater devolution of administrative and financial authority to local government institutions.

The components are:
1. Sector Policy Support Component
2. Water Supply and Sanitation Component
     - WSS Coastal Belt Project
     - HYSAWA Fund, and Local Government Support Unit
3. Capacity Building Component
     - Local Government Institutions Capacity Building Project
     - NGO and Civil Society Networking Project
     - Knowledge Development and Training Networking Project
4. Chittagong Hill Tracts HYSAWA Fund Project

The agreement was signed on 28 December 2005 while joint progress thus far has been made towards formal
approval of DPP/TPPs.


Sanitation Coverage
Until 1987 sanitation has received little attention compared with the WS sector. After 1987 motivation and
awareness campaigns were pursued. As a result rural people started realizing the importance of sanitation.
However, the total latrine coverage increased much slower than the WS coverage.
In 1995 with a SOCMOB (Social Mobilisation) programme boosted sanitation coverage to about 43%. However
because of lack of follow up action the coverage reduced to the baseline figures for October 2003 as given in the
table below.

The summery of national sanitation coverage (as on June 2005) for rural and urban areas:
                    According to baseline survey, October „03              Status as of June 2005
       Areas        # Families using      % Families using        # Families using % Families using
                    sanitary latrines     sanitary latrines       sanitary latrines    sanitary latrines
Rural                    5,274,810                 29%               10,457,039                57%
Pourashovas               983,025                  53%                1,368,902                74%
City corporations         850,527                  70%                 907,797                 75%
Country total            7,108,362                 33%               12,733,738                60%
Ref. DPHE National Sanitation Secretarial Progress Report, June 2005, website

It has to be emphasized that the actual coverage is frequently lowered because of flooding. The “hygienic
coverage” of 23% of the population is considerably less when considering such criteria as hand washing habits,
hygienic maintenance, etc.

The country hosted a successful internal „South-Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) in October 2003.
A National Sanitation Strategy has been adopted giving larger roles and responsibilities to local government
institutions. Consequently, a larger proportion of existing government block grants have been allocated to these
local government institutions to finance hygiene promotion activities and to provide financial support to the
hard-core poor. The ongoing National Sanitation Campaign initiated in 2003 has thus far contributed to a
sizeable increase in the national sanitation coverage from 33% (Oct 2003) to more than 60% in just two years.
Up to June 2005 some 25 Sub-districts, 283 Unions and 14 Municipalities have been declared as being 100%
covered and the country is set to achieve its sanitation goal of 100% by 2010. While there is growing recognition
for the fact that both the number as well as the quality and sustainability of many of the facilities will have to be
more thoroughly monitored and certified, these figures are no doubt impressive.

Rural sanitation
Coverage of latrines in rural areas increased from 23% in 1990 to 57% by 2005. The major sanitation problem
facing rural inhabitants is the dearth of environmentally safe designs for installation of durable and low-cost pit-
lined latrines in high water table or flood prone areas. Many latrines installed over the last decade leak and spread
pathogens into the environment, mainly during flooding conditions.
Till recently little priority was given to sanitation needs, perhaps because government subsidies are no longer
provided and household sanitation is recognized to be privately financed, often under credit or instalment plans.
Government policy is to facilitate access of all citizens to a basic level of services in sanitation. If pit latrines can
be made affordable to the bulk of the population, faecal pollution may be reduced to a lower level than that at
present, although performance of basic latrines under some and adverse situations is still unsatisfactory.
Development of flood proof latrines is the subject of ongoing research. The 2005 National Sanitation Strategy is
a huge step ahead in sanitation improvement. The political commitment at all levels is very substantial.

Urban sanitation and drainage
Dhaka has the only piped sewerage system in Bangladesh. It covers 20-25% of the city‟s area. A further 40% of
the households have septic tanks and about 20% have pit latrines. Even when proper sanitation facilities are
constructed, disposal is often directly into the surroundings or drains. Sanitation in slum areas is practically non-
existent. Land is highly valued; especially in slum areas often no sanitary facilities can be built or are in danger
because of land disputes. Also slums tend to be located in lower areas subject to seasonal high ground water
levels and flooding.
The massive expansion in urban population will substantially increase the demands for WSS facilities within the
urban areas. Pit latrines currently used are not an attractive option for the future because of the problem of
cleaning and the risk of spread of pollution. Piped sewerage systems will require a considerably higher level of
investment than for the water supply.

Environment is a key issue in the GOB as well as in the Danida policy. The SPS will contribute to an
improvement of the environment through its sanitation activities as pollution by excreta is an important

environmental issue in Bangladesh. Moreover, attempts will be made to improve the urban environment through
improved drainage as well as collection and environmentally sound disposal of solid wastes.
Recently GOB introduced an environmental sanitation programme throughout the country covering specific
messages in relation to hygiene, sanitation and behavioural change.


A number of important changes took place in the last five years in or in relation to the public water and
sanitation sector, e.g.:
    (i)      strong GOB commitment at all levels with special reference to sanitation
    (ii)      a sanitation strategy has been discussed with stakeholders, elaborated and agreed upon;
    (iii)     GOB funds are channelled to local level for sanitation to meet the GOB MDG on sanitation;
    (iv)     the GOB-NGO collaboration has been intensified;
    (v)       UP level officials seek collaboration from NGOs to meet sanitation MDGs;
    (vi)     cost sharing principles have been accepted with special reference to latrines for which the
             population has to bear the costs and;
    (vii)    the role of the Local Government Institutions is increasing.
Danida has played an important role in stimulating these processes of change as mentioned above.

Further conclusions and recommendations are:
    - With the increasing urbanisation and outdated/run down and absent sewerage systems major
        investments will be needed. Instead of traditional sewerage systems use of various alternative designs has
        to be exploited. In slum areas land legislation should be established to allow development of sanitation
        facilities. Better environmental awareness and legislation are needed to reduce direct disposal of waste
        and excreta.
    - The provision of latrines alone will not be sufficient to achieve sustainable sanitation and improvement
        of public health, unless accompanied by improved hygiene behaviour and awareness.
    - Proper technology for latrines for high water tables and/or resisting floods at affordable cost should be
    - Sector Wide Approach still is practiced rudimentary, which is a constraint for government‟s ownership
        and administration of the sector. SWAp needs to be extended to provide its ultimate benefits.
    - Although UPs have been given some authority and financial means to support hardcore poor with
        sanitation improvement, a proper support mechanism for the hardcore poor should be established.
    - Involvement of Local Government Institutions (Pourashavas and UPs) is vital for the achievement of
        100% sanitation and they should fully exercise their mandate for WSS; DPHE should take up the role as
        facilitator. The capacity of staff at all levels should be increased in this respect. WatSan Committees
        should be reviewed and changes recommended.

Simon de Haan
Senior Project Adviser
DPHE-Danida Water Supply and Sanitation in Coastal Belt Project

Main reference:   Bangladesh Country Report (draft)
                  Evaluation of Danish Support to Water Supply and Sanitation
                  October 2005
                  Danida File no. 104.A.1.e.36


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