Bangladesh is one of WIN’s focus country where, for the past seven years, we have been engaging with various partners – both governmental and non-governmental – to strengthen integrity in the water and sanitation sector.
In September this year, I (Binayak Das, Regional and Programme Coordinator – Integrity tools, Climate Change, and South Asia) flew to Bangladesh visit several of our joint projects, and see first-hand the work of our dedicated partners. Here are some key observations, and highlights from the progress we are making together with our partners, in addressing integrity challenges in several of our focus areas there.
WIN’s engagement in Bangladesh supports the National Integrity Strategy (NIS) of the government, and we hope that our work there contributes to fulfilling the mandate under the NIS and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Championing Integrity Management in Khulna water utility
My first stop was Khulna in southern Bangladesh, where WIN has been collaborating with Khulna Water and Sewerage Authority (KWASA) on the Integrity Management in KWASA project.
Implementing the Integrity Management (IM) Toolbox 2015 – 2017, the significant results were shown that led to new measures taken by KWASA to strengthen their management, and improve performance. I attended a learning and sharing workshop organized by KWASA with WIN and NGO Forum. Mr Abdullah, Managing Director KWASA, lead the discussion of KWASA’s success throughout the project implementation. It is important to note that addressing integrity related challenges is a very complicated and sensitive topic in Bangladesh (among other places!) and leadership from the top is very crucial to achieve any results, and it is clear Mr Abdullah has taken a very active role in IM Toolbox implementation. He is one of WIN’s Integrity Ambassadors, and even after the project was over, KWASA continues to work on various integrity measures, and are applying other measures such as: field inspections; improved customer complaint management; curbing illegal connections; a Customers’ Charter; and increased transparency in the billing process. KWASA has committed to continue to implement new processes, including: the impartial recruitment of an auditor; integrity trainings for employees and management; increasing transparency of water connection and transport procedures; and increasing transparency of disconnection and reconnection procedures.
WIN plans to commence a 2nd phase of the Integrity Management in KWASA project in 2019 to collaborate further with KWASA.
Water integrity and climate change-an interface
While in Bangladesh, I also attended the 3rd Dhaka Integrity Dialogue organized by Transparency International Bangladesh. The dialogue focused on Transparency in Green Climate Funds. The informative discourse included inputs from high-level bureaucrats from the Bangladesh government, and international experts knowledgeable about Green Climate Funds who shared information on accreditation processes, current statuses of disbursements, and monitoring outcomes among a host of topics. There was a major concern around the Funds’ structure and processes, and participants highlighted the need for increased transparency throughout all components.
I presented integrity concerns in the interface of water and climate, and highlighted concerns that may affect climate projects on water governance and management. It was well received.
School sanitation in a remote region of Bangladesh
My last stop was at the site of a project in a very remote and hard-to-reach area of Bangladesh in the sub-districts of Ramgati and Bhola, which are located on opposite banks of the Padma river.
Due to erosion and climate change, the riverine is ever-shifting land and people are continuously migrating inland. Here, WIN is implementing an assessment project on School WASH with Bangladesh partner, Development Organisation of the Rural Poor (DORP). The key aspects assessed are on the availability of clearly defined rules, application of and adherence to existing rules, access to information, and ability to support decision-making, in the context of the Circular: WASH Facilities in School of the Bangladesh government. The assessment is based on a set of indicators (see box) related to School WASH, primary among them is the capture of data on how existing facilities and measures affect girls’ access and usage of toilets. The activities are inspiring, and it is one of WIN’s projects where women and volunteers are taking the lead. I participated in school workshops, and interacted with various stakeholders in Alexander Char, Ramgati.
- Quality of sanitation facilities: cleanliness, accessibility, and availability of soap, water, light and ventilation
- Gender: differentiated toilets for girls
- Menstrual hygiene: information to girls, availability of sanitary napkins
- Inclusion: toilets adapted for students with disabilities
- Budget and expenditure: financial planning, accounting procedures.
Almost all of the project team members are women, several of them workshop facilitators who are volunteers from the local budget clubs. They are very motivated to see the success of this project, and are dedicating time and energy without any remuneration. Key discussions revolved around around menstrual hygiene, and the cleanliness of toilet facilities. There is a critical gap between the numbers of toilets versus the number of students – for instance, in one school, there were only eight toilets for approximately 1,700 students. Parents raised concerns over the lack of information on budgets and expenditures for maintenance. The goal is that this ongoing assessment will identify key information that can help in advocating with the relevant authorities for improving sanitation services in the schools. Another thought-provoking aspect of the project is a randomized control trial (RCT) study that is being undertaken between WIN, Stockholm University, and local partner NGO Forum. The research focuses on understanding if intervention using the Annotated Water Integrity Scan (AWIS) can improve the delivery of school WASH services. There are 60 schools that are part of the project, among which 30 are where the AWIS tool-related assessment has been undertaken.
In terms of stakeholder engagement and advocacy, the local offices of the education department have been actively engaging with the project. Local authorities with their own resources have also started sharing the information about the government circular on school sanitation by painting the circular in the school walls which are part of the project.
Overall, the water integrity and WASH work we are implementing with partners in Bangladesh is continually striving to improve water distribution, services, and access to people in several communities. We will continue our endeavors in 2019 with the ambition that the positive results be reflected in communities across the entire country.
Photos: Binayak Das/WIN, and SuSanA Secretariat CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons