POST TIME: 1 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Creating atmosphere for sustainable sanitation practice to reach SDGs
In the markets, stations or other public places, there must be public toilets with proper operation and maintenance mechanism
Mrinal K Sarkar

Creating atmosphere for sustainable sanitation practice to reach SDGs

Globally, around 1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation. Bangladesh, with a population of 150 million, has made significant progress towards providing water supply and sanitation in the last two decades. According to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) (WHO/UNICEF, 2014), 85% people have access to safe water and 57 % people use hygienic sanitation facilities.  

Bangladesh has made remarkable progress on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 7 by significantly reducing the population without access to improved water supply and sanitation facilities. More importantly, Bangladesh has successfully reduced the percentage of the poorest without access to water and sanitation facilities. However, there are still significant challenges if Bangladesh is going to ensure safe, affordable, reliable and sustainable services for all.

After then, as per 7th FY plan safe drinking water must be made available for all urban and rural population. Besides, SDG 6 ensures availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and there is 6 targets related to achieving universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all as well as achieving access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and ending open defecation, by paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations by 2030.

  In water supply, the quality of drinking water is undermined by safety issues. About 20 million people are currently exposed to water having arsenic contamination. In sanitation, till now 3% of the population defecates in the open, more than half of the latrines used in Bangladesh are unsanitary in design, operation or maintenance (JMP 2014). In hygiene, while general awareness is high, only 30% people wash hands with soap or ash and water after defecating (UNICEF/ICDDR,B, 2014).  

These alarming figures are challenges on the ways to reach 7th FYP as well as achieve of SDGs. The government of Bangladesh’s long-term Perspective Plan (2010-21) attaches a high priority on ensuring access to drinking water, sanitation and good hygiene practice for all.

The government considers supporting water supply and sanitation as vital for sustainable national development and raising the living standards and well-being of the population. Furthermore, ensuring universal access to water supply, sanitation and hygiene is a major challenge for Bangladesh that will require a multi-pronged approach. Here another important concern is that how much achievement will be sustainable. Due to climate change along with frequent natural and manmade disasters, communities of costal belt are suffering the most. After a natural disaster various agencies like government and non-government distribute relief. Little consideration is paid to sustainability. We have to put emphasis on sustainable development regarding issues of safe water and sanitation aspect.

Disasters destroy infrastructure. Though people try to reconstruct their accommodation but they do not try to reconstruct their latrine or other health and hygienic aspect. Due to lack of practices like food hygiene, sanitation hygiene, personal hygiene, water hygiene and environment hygiene, people suffer physically and financially. For this reason we have to do mainly two things regarding water and sanitation. The first one is, climate resilience sanitation system must be put emphasis otherwise all remain unimproved. The second is private sector engagement. Capacity enhancement of local sanitary business man is very much essential. For focusing on these areas we have to explore our interventions. Most of the sanitation businessmen are working on their traditional manner and most of them are not taking it as their main business. It is optional for these people who prepare business plan in yearly basis for exploring their sanitation business. Sanitation business people have to introduce varieties in their respective business through market promotion, set up structure on their business, take responsibility to create awareness among the community. Both the community and business people can make a social business atmosphere.

Another important thing is demand creation by the community and it is a matter related to awareness among the people of the community. Along with various government and non-government media, existing women hawkers who sell household level various commodities can play a vital role among the community people regarding this awareness creation. They will carry hygienic commodities to the household level and make push factors for them. They can also create a social business atmosphere.

Bangladesh has almost zeroed open defecation and a concern has been created for proper fecal sludge management. Here our sweepers are plying a vital role to empty the latrine but very much in an unhygienic way due to proper knowledge and capacity causing health risks. In most cases, they discharge the sludge in the open places or nearby water body which is very much unhygienic. That is why capacity enhancement of the sweeper along with decent equipment is very much essential for them. The government as well as nongovernmental organisations can take initiative on fecal sludge aiming to produce manure through proper processing which also as piloting basis is going ahead by public private partnership like Practical Action Bangladesh as well as likeminded few organizations in Bangladesh.

In the urban areas people wash their hands with the exception in slums but in the rural areas there is no such hand washing practice. But it is very much urgent to install hand washing device at house hold level. The relevant companies should produce hand washing device for the rural areas at affordable costs. On the other hand, in the rural and urban areas institutional level hygiene management is in very poor condition. Girls during their menstrual period do not go to schools because these places lack proper toilets. So, ensuring hygienic toilet along with adequate water facilities is a must in these institutions.

In the markets, stations or other public places, there must be public toilets with proper operation and maintenance mechanism. Our government, national and international agencies have to work on these matters and ensure sanitation hygiene, water hygiene, personal hygiene, food hygiene and environmental hygiene for achieving sustainable development goals within 2030.

The writer is a development worker