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WASH-ing in Bangladesh

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Asia, Infrastructure

Many things are taken for granted in the developed world, but I think that clean water must be at the top of the list. One of my little luxuries when I get back to the UK after a few months overseas is putting my toothbrush under a running tap; I have to use bottled water here because the quality of what comes through the pipes is so poor.

Land of Rivers, Bangladesh
Land of Rivers, Bangladesh

The situation in much of Bangladesh of course leaves that anecdote looking flimsy. For a land of rivers it is notable that fewer than 40 percent of people have access to safe drinking water, due in part to a lack of resources, planning and coordination. Three further factors however also weigh heavily: the water table is dropping under heavy population pressure; poisoning of supplies by arsenic present in the soil is a slow-ticking health disaster; and rising sea levels are encroaching on the south and turning many aquifers saline and undrinkable.

In this context I’ve spent the last couple of weeks leading a review of a significant piece of our support to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) here in Bangladesh: the SHEWA-B programme. The first of these, water, is most commonly the focus of donor programmes: building safe water wells is a quick way to help people. But decent waste disposal and education on hygienic practices - as simple a thing as washing hands - are vital as part of a comprehensive programme to reduce the incidence of disease and improve environmental quality.

Kurshida, Kalia Pourashava, Narail District
Kurshida, Kalia Pourashava, Narail District

Myself and two of the team visited Narail District in the south west of the country. In Kalia municipality we met Kurshida (pictured, in green), a young woman who - under the tuition of Community Hygiene Promoters paid for by the programme - had become a community leader in discussing both hygiene behaviours and the water and sanitation needs of those living in the slum. Kurshida spoke with real passion to the gathered women about the health benefits of improved WASH. As an immediate practical benefit, the community had asked government engineers to move a  water-point from a position inaccessible for much of the day; they proudly demonstrated how easy it now was to get clean and safe water when they wanted it.

Millions of people are benefiting in a similar way under the programme. Equally importantly for the long-run, central government and local councils are heavily involved in planning, spending, implementing and accounting for results. We hope that, over time, the sector will be increasingly coordinated and led by national actors. This combination - immediate results and long-run sustainability - is ideally how we want all our programmes to operate.

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  1. Comment by jane kluckow posted on

    water related diseases are a growing human tragedy. It is horriffying to think that we live in the 21st century and people are still forced to drink water contaminated with deadly bacteria parasites and worms.
    Adam you are fortunate to able to afford bottled water to brush you teeth with!
    Arsenic poisoning has been a major problem in that part of the world for many years and still very little seems to have been achieved to alieviate the problem!

  2. Comment by Dr Akhter Uddin Murad posted on

    Thanks for your Information.the tap water is only sources of our drinking water, which is purified by mixing the bleaching powder. I am very doubtful that weather it is proportinately mixed it or not, Chlorine normally very toxic chemical. it may cause colonic diseases like benign and malignant growth.It should be aware from this time.

  3. Comment by Hasan Uz Zaman posted on

    Thanks Adam to let us know your experience with water contamination due to arsenic. As I have been working in a consulting firm for a year and came across to different projects which mainly related to producing some reports. Nothing is followed up by the authority to implement the recommendations to mitigate the arsenic related problems. I believe the donor projects (through multilateral banks and agencies) should come along with implementation, like Char livelihood project, so that the donor's fund (taxpayer's money) can be justified.

  4. Comment by Dr Akhter uddin Murad posted on

    Wastage of drinking water, on every morning while I am going to my office I have to seen that drinking water is spreading into the newly constructed building,no tap on street water point.water is falling randomly from that point.These makes me annoyed.Another important factor is that we are using our under ground water for paddy field. which will react our environment today or tomorrow. At present some where in our country water level going down in winter water comes out through our house hold tube well. Random collection of under water may cause of chemical poisoning, like arsenic, silica, manganese and other.natural disaster like earthquake, epidemic, destruction of natural forest etc may be the cause of suggestion isthat drinking water it's life saving, so we have to aware that 'DRINKING WATER FOR DRINK NOT FOR OTHER". For Cultivation, for Construction there are lot of alternatives.

  5. Comment by Mahbubul Huque posted on

    Thanks . DHEF Bangladesh proudly announced that we are all ready open a awareness program " SAVE WATER SAVE LIFE'

    Mahbubul Huque
    Dorpon Health And Education Foundation

  6. Comment by Mohammad Tarikul Islam posted on

    as a part of SHEWA-B impact assessment study it is my observation that community hygiene promoters are doing a splendid job to promote health education among the lay persons of rural people of Bangladesh. But if their salary & education level for lecturing rural people increased then this kind of immersion will be sustainable. Tailoring health education material is not easy rather painstaking job so it should be revitalized again.

  7. Comment by Dr Akhter Uddin posted on

    Dear All,
    Please think about our environment. especially polluted by unusual disposal of polythene. Polytine is essential item for our daily work. Shopping ,packing or preserving some thing with in the house or outside. But problem is its unusual disposal. which cause various problem ,this cause blockage f small drainage, pollution of water, decrease the depth of the cannal and river. so we should care about it. both from government and private sector. It is minimize only by developing awareness, not dispose polythene in unnecessary. if we develop this we can improve our environment about 20%.
    thank you very much for patience.
    best regards
    Dr Akhter