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WASH well positioned in Bangladesh's new Five Year Plan

February 11th 2021 at 15:07

Water resources management, equitable access and hygiene receive due attention.

Cover of Bangladesh's Eighth Five Year Plan (July2020 - June2025)

The Government of Bangladesh has recently published its 8th Five Year Plan positioning water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) as a cross-cutting issue of different development initiatives. The plan, which was developed by the Planning Commission, was approved by the National Economic Council (NEC) and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 29th December last year. It has become available online from 3rd of February.

The Five Year Plan (July 2020-June 2025) is a key document that illustrates the strategy and action plan of the country to achieve its development goals. It carries more importance as it illustrates the plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets. WASH sector players, especially the advocacy leaders, campaigned to the government for better positioning of WASH issues in the development agenda, which has been reflected in the 8th Five Year Plan. The plan prioritises the need to increase storage in the existing water retention bodies [Part 2. Chapter 4: Strategies for Agriculture and Water Resource Management].

Overall the Plan acknowledges the inequalities in WASH access and disproportionate impact on the poor, and the environmental hazards from unsafe disposal of faecal sludge as challenge areas to address. It considers context-specific WASH interventions in hard-to-reach areas and creating an enabling environment for WASH services as preferred strategies [Part 2. Sector 7. Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives].

In the Plan, WASH is one of the key focus areas for the multi-sectoral, multi-agency approach to improved nutrition, especially through handwashing and other hygiene practices. Additionally increasing access to basic facilities such as toilets and sanitary napkins for women and girls in the work place have been considered as a part of the poverty reduction, social protection and inclusion strategy. [Part 2. Sector 9: Housing and Community Amenities and Sector 10: Health, population and Nutrition].

Despite the need for more focus on WASH issues in the fight against COVID-19, the inclusion of WASH in the Plan is expected to provide a positive contribution towards achievement of SDG target 6.

Two new strategies for the WASH sector in Bangladesh

November 16th 2020 at 18:46

 Sanitation facility of a hardcore poor family, Ramgati Bangladesh

A pro-poor strategy has been approved and a new national strategy is on its way.

 

Photo caption: Sanitation facility of a hardcore poor family, Ramgati Bangladesh. Credit: Digbijoy Dey/IRC

Bangladesh is struggling to manage the sanitation challenge of its huge population. The approximate population density of the country is 1265 per Km2 which makes it very difficult to find suitable sanitation solutions. During the era of the Millennium Development Goal, the country  made great strides in reducing open defecation to close to zero. But the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) came up with new indicators and achieving safely managed sanitation has become a great challenge. However, the country has recently updated two of its relevant strategies to tackle this challenge. One is the National Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation and the other is the Pro-Poor Strategy for Water and Sanitation Sector in Bangladesh (listed below under Resources). Of the two, the second one has completed all formalities and has been commissioned whereas the first one has been revised but is awaiting formal commissioning from the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives.

Pro-Poor Strategy for Water and Sanitation Sector

The two strategies are believed to play a good role for the country in achieving SDG 6, especially target 6.2. The pro-poor strategy solves the puzzle of selecting ideal candidates for the water and/or sanitation subsidy. Despite an increase of finance for the WASH sector, a huge population (roughly 6 million people) is hardcore poor and struggles to get safe sanitation. There was ambiguity in the mechanism of selection and subsidisation for WASH purposes. Development partners advocated to the government from the beginning of the SDG era for such a strategy. There was assistance from partners in revising the strategy as well.

Who are the hardcore poor?

In the revised strategy, hardcore poor will be selected as per the guideline of “Humanitarian Assistance Programme Implementation Guideline 2012-2013” (it has 12 indicators; key indicators are being landless or depend only on daily wages). People of this wealth category with no toilet or no private water source will be considered as a “target group” for subsidy. At rural level, local government institutes such as Union or Upazila Parishad’s WASH related standing committees will play a role in identifying these people. In urban areas, the Municipality or City Corporation will play an equivalent role.

Subsidies

Another visible change in the revised strategy is the share of subsidy. Earlier there was a provision of 10% cost sharing from the hardcore poor households for such subsidy arrangements (as per National Cost Sharing Strategy for Water and Sanitation 2012 - listed below under Resources). The revised strategy has kept the provision of 100% subsidy for hardcore poor people. As most of these people are estimated to be landless, the subsidy has community options. In urban areas, subsidy provision for faecal sludge management will also be available. The operation and maintenance (O&M) part of the infrastructure built with the help of these subsidies is mainly left to the community. A maximum O&M charge for the hardcore poor people has been set at 25 taka per month (roughly 0.30 euro). This may seem very negligible but there are observations which indicate that this negligible fee may prevent proper O&M. Another criticism of the strategy is the selection mechanism of the hardcore poor candidates. The local government institutes may not yet be capable of carrying out the task and a substantial capacity building and monitoring mechanism will be required.

National Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation

The National Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation is not officially signed but the working committee has finalised the draft. The official procedure to commission the strategy is ongoing. This will be the country’s key strategy to achieve the SDG 6 targets, especially 6.2. It has contextualised the definition of safely managed sanitation which remained a crucial issue of debate since many households in Bangladesh are used to sharing their toilet. In this context the strategy prefers to not limit it to one household and to prioritise the hygienic maintenance of it. It sets different milestones for different targets and also recommends institutional reforms to achieve the targets. More importantly it considers and integrates the issue of solid waste management and water resources management in WASH which was not so salient in the previous strategy. 

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