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Last modified on Thursday, 18 October 2018 00:00

WASH activities tackle challenge in coastal belt and haors Integrated planning urged to meet SDGs

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Climate change is increasingly making it difficult to implement sustainable water sanitation and hygiene programmes in the coastal and haor regions. Increasing water salinity along the coast, increase in arsenic level, rising bacterial contamination and lack of land suitable for digging pits to install sanitary latrines are the main problems in this regard. The added problems in the hilly terrains and hard-to-reach localities are intense water shortage and unavailability of cost-effective and sustainable WASH technologies. Effective solutions to these problems must be put in place through strengthening mass awareness and integrated initiatives to reach the SDG-6 of ensuring universal access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene practices.

Speakers revealed this alarming scenario at a workshop titled "Sustainable WASH: Grassroots experience and way forward" organised today on Wednesday (17 October 2018) at BRAC Centre in the capital. BRAC organised this event to forward recommendations to strengthen the WASH programmes focusing on these regions.

Peter De Vries, first secretary to the Dutch Embassy, Dr Khairul Islam, country representative of Water Aid, SMA Rashid, Executive Director, NGO Forum for Public Health, Md Shofiqul Alam, specialist of WASH at the UNICEF, Bangladesh, Mohammad Golam Muktadir, executive engineer of Department Public Health Engineering, and Dr Md Akramul Islam, director of BRAC's Communicable Disease and WASH Programme, were present at the workshop as guests of honour and panel speakers.

Dr Muhammad Musa, executive director of BRAC, gave the welcome speech at the programme. Dr Muktadir Kabir, programme head of BRAC's WASH and malaria programmes, gave the keynote presentation.

Adequate number of cleaning staff is essential for the places and establishments where there are public gatherings to keep environment hygienic, Dr Khairul Islam observed, saying that, "But cleaning staff in Bangladesh has a high rate of dropping out. We have to give more effort and increase spending to retain cleaning staff."

Peter De Vries said, "We understand that this sector is in need of an investment boost. My government's investments will continue in this sector. But we are more interested in investing in innovative solutions, capacity building and effective management."

Dr Muhammad Musa in his speech thanked the Dutch government for its financial support to BRAC's WASH programme. Stressing priorities for Bangladesh to achieve SDG-6, he said, "Introducing sustainably effective solutions to the WASH sector in the hilly and remote areas is a high priority. Strengthening collaborations between the government and NGOs, reinforcing WASH activities at both primary and secondary schools and stepping up advocacy campaign both at the grassroots and policymakers must also be in the high priority list."

The speakers put forth a number of recommendations which include: Strengthening collaboration among stakeholders to speed up the tackling of SDG-6 challenges, involving local civil society to strengthen public awareness campaigns, creation and promotion of more private entrepreneurs to boost sanitation facilities, increasing national budget allocation to improve hygiene and faecal sludge management, intensifying WASH activities in schools and healthcare facilities across the country.

BRAC began its water, sanitation and hygiene programme in 2006. At present this programme has expanded to 289 upazilas in 54 districts. So far, under this programme BRAC has provided access to safe drinking water for 20 lakh and 46 thousand (2.46 million) people and sanitary latrines for 4 crore 27 lakh and 60 thousand (42.76m) people. Besides it, BRAC has also installed 1,619 tube-wells till September this year in Cox's Bazar for the forcibly displaced Rohingyas of Myanmar.

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