Reducing Risks Through Sustainable WASH Services in Bangladesh

Last week, RAIN (a brand of Aidenvironment) was in Bangladesh to discuss two important issues with its partners: support for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) in the second phase of the WASH-SDG program, which starts in July 2020. But why should a WASH program in Bangladesh work on DRR and CCA?

DRR and CCA are two sides of the same coin and are particularly relevant to the situation in Bangladesh. They overlap and serve similar policy goals. DRR is concerned with reducing risks posed by all environmental hazards and CCA is concerned with issues relating to environmental hazards that are influenced by climate change. In fact, any WASH program, not just in Bangladesh, that neglects the impact of disasters or climate change on WASH services will be unsustainable in the long term: if drought risks are neglected, the wells will dry up; sea level rise can make drinking water sources too saline to consume; floods damage toilets and lead to contamination of the environment with fecal sludge.

At the start of the program in Bangladesh, RAIN drew up a Climate Vulnerability Risks Assessment for WASH, which included the expected impact of climatic risks, climate change, and disasters on the WASH environment. Program actions were proposed to limit these risks. In the first program phase, RAIN provided training on links between DRR and WASH to the local partners. The partners then started working on DRR-CCA activities, especially those linking the vulnerability of WASH facilities to disasters such as floods and cyclones. Their activities focused mainly on institutional capacity support and activating the local DRR committees, which are responsible for planning and implementing DRR actions in Bangladesh. At this level, the partners’ aim was getting inclusive access to WASH services in preparation for, during, and after disasters. For example, at the cyclone-prone area of Barguna district, a key issue is improving WASH facilities at the cyclone shelter centers.

RAIN’s initiative with local partner Hope for the Poorest on microcredits for rooftop rainwater harvesting also addresses both DRR and CCA. Rooftop rainwater harvesting is a sturdy self-sufficient infrastructure which functions without energy. It provides the opportunity of obtaining fresh drinking water in a country where surface water and shallow and deep groundwater are often not suitable for drinking – a problem that is exacerbated by sea level rise. Infiltration of rooftop excess water can also help to recharge the degraded aquifers and limit waterlogging issues, which are prevalent in the program area.

The implementation of the rooftop rainwater harvesting plants are planned, constructed, and maintained by local entrepreneurs, supported by Hope for the Poorest. The services provided by these entrepreneurs will contribute to the development of the private WASH sector while at the same offering financial benefits to households, who are spared the costs of purchasing water. In the second program phase, RAIN plans to intensify its support to the DRR-CCA activities of the private sector.

The plant shown in the photo below brings drinking water to the doorstep of this woman’s home. With a capacity of 6,000 liters it provides water to six family members, also throughout the dry season.

For more information, please contact Niels Lenderink.