About half of the people in the coastal southwestern districts of Khulna and Satkhira of Bangladesh have no access to safe drinking water and 58% lack sanitation facilities, water, and sanitation experts said at a dialogue Thursday. They said that the population, especially in Koyra and Dacope upazials in Khulna and Kaliganj and Shyamnagar upazilas in the Satkhira district have to walk for half an hour to get drinking water.
They said all this quoting a joint study done by the disaster management ministry, the USAID, the World Vision and a number of local NGOs.
The dialogue on WaSH, jointly organized by Nobo Jatra Project of USAID and Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives (MoLGRD&C) was held on Thursday, August 9, 2018, at the DPHE Conference Room in Dhaka.
‘Nobo Jatra – New Beginning’ is a USAID Food for Peace Development Food Security Activity that seeks to improve gender equitable food security, nutrition and resilience in southwest Bangladesh. World Vision Bangladesh (WVB), together with the World Food Programme (WFP) and Winrock International and 3 local partner NGOs undertook the project, integrating interventions in Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH), Agriculture and Alternative livelihoods, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Good Governance and Social Accountability and Gender to achieve its objectives. Nobo Jatra is being jointly implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR) of the Government of Bangladesh.
Chief of Party Mr. Rakesh Katal delivered a power point presentation focusing on goals, objectives and different initiatives of Nobo Jatra Project. He also focused on WaSH current scenario at Khulna and Satkhira districts and shared some project initiatives to address WaSH challenges.
Chief Engineer of DPHE, Mr. Md. Muniruzzaman chaired the session. He mentioned that he himself visited different areas of Khulna and Satkhira district and he saw practical realities and challenges of WaSH sector from the ground. He also mentioned that DPHE will plan, develop and implement appropriate programs to address water sanitation challenges in future days, accordingly.
The Chief Engineer also informed that recently saline water treatment plants were installed in the areas affected by the saline intrusion. An arsenic water mitigation programme, he said was underway.
Representatives of Government, INGOs, NGOs, think tanks, networks, WaSH experts and media attended the dialogue.
Among others, former Secretary, Mr. Ahmed Hossain Khan, Mr. Harun or Rashid, Joint Secretary and Director, Department of Disaster Management Mr. Amitavh Sarker, and Joint Secretart Local Government Division spoke during the dialogue. This dialogue was moderated by Jamil Ahmed, Head of Policy Advocacy of Nobo Jatra Project, USAID.
Participants came up with different recommendations for addressing water sanitation challenges at Southern Bangladesh.
Nobo Jatra adviser Ahmed Hossain Khan said that life and livelihood in the southwestern region were jeopardized by saline water to a great extent.
Nobo Jatra’s chief of party Mr. Rakesh Katal said that only 52% households in the region have access to safe drinking water compared to the national average of about 90%. At least 65.5% of the households in the region, said Rakesh, need to walk for half an hour to bring safe drinking water. And only 42% of the households in the region have access to proper sanitation, he said.
Available water quality causes nutrition deficiency and stunting, said Rakesh.
Director for Research at the Disaster Management Department Mr. Harun-or-Rashid said that the water crisis was increasing day by day in the region. He called for the development of alternative technology and facilities like reverse osmosis (RO), pond sand filter (PSF), rainwater harvesting for storing safe drinking water in the salinity affected region.
The discussant urged the government to provide water and sanitation funds to the union parishads. They also recommended for initiating water ATM and recommend to accelerate water distribution with cost sharing.
Experts also urged to expedite the social behavior change communications (SBCC) by the GoB and other NGOs. They said that many NOGs were working in the region in an uncoordinated manner and called for coordinating their efforts for better results. A strong network of stakeholders in different sectors is now the need of the time.
There is also a need to ensure regular budget flow from the Ministry and the different departments of GoB. DPHE should play the leadership and coordinating role at central and district levels and ensure monitoring of WaSH services.
The participants recommended that journalists and media professionals should be included in the future study visits of Nobo Jatra project to experience the practical realities from the ground so that they can play some role in WaSH policy reform by their writing.