Strengthening WASH systems in Bangladesh

by Anisul Azam Khan BA (Hons) MA,
Chief Executive, LORDS Bangladesh

WASH means Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.   People cannot live with out WASH. It is the part and parcel of a human  life. WASH is the symbol of civilization in the modern age. We say water is life: according to scientists, all kinds of species of life originated in water, a human body  is 70% water, and all  civilization was created in river basins. I don’t want to write more about water.

Sanitation is another vital  component of human life. The symbol of modern  civilization means sanitation system of a home. A dirty and  unhygienic toilet is the symbol of poor civilization.  A comparatively clean healthy toilet is the symbol of civilization. Once upon a time our society used dirty toilets, historically in Bangladesh this is not long ago. In our Society before hundred years a few numbers of people using sanitary latrine and rest of the people were non user of sanitary latrine.

Hygiene is the most important component of human life. Hygiene is divided into two parts: one is personal hygiene and another is community hygiene. Personal hygiene means – hand washing, mouth washing, cleaning the body and regular cutting of pubic hair, and regular cutting of nails etc.

Since the liberation war in 1971, Government and Non-Government Organisations  have been doing social movement WASH programmes all over the Bangladesh. But it is not sufficient for our society!  Bangladesh is a disaster-prone delta region. Every year, millions of people are affected by floods in the north and the  coastal belt of southern Bangladesh is hit by cyclones every year and the dreams of million people are destroyed. At the same time our WASH system is also demolished by the cyclone and flood every year.

The WASH system of Bangladesh needs to be strong and sustainable. It must be inclusive in its approach, not only benefiting a few people. WASH has to be for all! It is a basic human right for all people in society: men, women and children, the rich and the poor, all types of people have the right to access the WASH system. So, WASH systems need to available for all across the country, in both rural and urban areas, and they need to withstand the shocks of floods and cyclones.

We need measures for sustainable WASH systems in Bangladesh. From practical experience I recommend:

  1. All handpump platforms should be constructed with stronger and higher foundations so that the pump is above the high level of flood water in flood risk and cyclone-prone areas.
  2. All latrines in flood risk and cyclone-prone areas should be constructed with a stronger foundation that is above the likely floodwater level.
  3. In our country all people should maintain personal hygiene as well as community hygiene practice, as for example: regularly washing hands, wearing clean and hygienic clothes etc. Its need to campaign all over the country.

My name is Anisul Azam Khan, I have completed B.A(Hons), M.A in Social Work at Rajshahi Universityi, Bangladesh. Now I am volunteer with WaterAid Bangladesh. I have worked with National an International NGOs, such as PIACT Bangladesh, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, DPHE-DANIDA Project and Enfants du Monde(EDM Bangladesh). I am committed to establishing Local Resource Development Society (LORDS Bangladesh) A Non-Profit, Non-Political Development Organization.

Our goal is to improve the lifestyle of marginalised people, and our objectives are:

  • To develop capable human resources & skill development training.
  • To develop technical assistance for marginal People.
  • To promote Social Development activities.
  • To provide relief &Rehabilitation support to the disaster people after natural calamities

Notes: Local Resource Development Society (LORDS) Bangladesh is registered with the Directorate of Social Service Govt. of The People Republic of Bangladesh Vide Registration No Dha-06268. Rupayan Kutir, 33 North Road, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205 Bangladesh


About the RWSN member eXchange

Exchanging ideas and experience is at the heart of what RWSN is about, but the online world is overloaded with content. Over the last 6 years, RWSN has run over 120 webinars in 3 languages, but that is only scratching the surface of what is out there and we want to give a platform to our members who are working on rural water at an operational level around the world. The RWSN member eXchange is an experiment to see if we can do that.

If you would be interested in submitting a blog post or video then download the guidelines:

Disclaimer: Any claims in an RWSN member eXchange article or video have not been verified and any views presented or services provided the individual organisation are not necessarily endorsed by RWSN or any of it executive partners or Secretariat.

Crowding-in Commercial Financing to Water Supply and Sanitation Utilities

This is a guest blog by RWSN Members Lance Morrell and Michael Ashford.

Achieving SDG6, clean water, and sanitation for all by 2030 requires estimated investments of US$114 billion per year. The present value of the total investment needed is US$1.7 trillion, and these estimates do not include costs of operation and maintenance. At three times current levels, this far exceeds the financing capacity of the entire public sector and donor community, combined.  

We in the development community need new tools and approaches to address this gap. Using donor and public funds to “crowd-in” private investment can help. USAID’s recently announced Private-Sector Engagement (PSE) Policy, for example, recognizes the urgency of using development funding to attract private sector capital into development of infrastructure and services around the world. Similarly, USAID’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Finance (WASH-FIN) program is developing and piloting specific interventions to increase private and public investment in WASH. The World Bank’s Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) is another important source of information and successes on how to leverage the public and donor sectors’ financial power to increase private investment in public infrastructure and services. In all cases, the policies and prescriptions call for the use of market-based approaches as the only sustainable path to sustainably support communities in achieving development and humanitarian outcomes.

While “billions and trillions” of capital for WASH feels overwhelming, outside of 20th century Soviet-style economies, public infrastructure was never meant to be financed, funded, and operated with public resources alone. Commensurate with the growing financing gaps, there is today a glut of private sector capital looking for reliable investments that meet their investment criteria. Globally, pension funds, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds and commercial banks hold approximately US$100 trillion in assets. In this light, the global financial system is out of balance, and the challenge is to attract private capital and other types of private sector participation into the water and sanitation sector. Development professionals, working with their government counterparts, must now “put skin in the game” without sacrificing the broader objective of shared, public benefits and economic growth.

Changing Project Funding to Crowd-In Private Investments

If the private sector has the capital needed to expand and improve the performance of the WASH sector, why haven’t governments been able to access it? How do we crowd-in the private sector?

The first step is to stop crowding-out private investment with donor funds. Governments and donors crowd-out private investors by providing grants or ill-designed concessional financing against which the private sector cannot compete. Financing and funding are products that banks and donors, respectively, want recipients to “buy;” the price is the interest rate. Free or cheap money from donors is not something private capital can beat.

There are numerous real-world examples of crowding-out in development, which follow the same basic scenario: Donor X works with a government to develop a project that will use public and donor funds to attract commercial financing to the project. In order to attract – or crowd-in – the commercial financing, government will work with financiers to understand their concerns and design appropriate risk mitigating measures. To crowd-in the private sector, the project designers require time to develop both the demand and the supply side. As this project preparation is proceeding and nearing agreement, Donor Y approaches the government and offers grant financing for 100 percent of the cost of the project, and crowds-out the private sector.

In contrast, as USAID’s PSE policy emphasizes, governments must engage and collaborate with the private sector, and the private sector must be allowed to manage its level of risk and to earn a reasonable profit. Adhering to an enterprise-driven development model, USAID and other donors are aiming to play a catalytic role in achieving results, rather than fully funding and managing the majority of its projects. The PSE model recognizes that the private sector represents nearly 90 percent of the direct foreign investment to developing countries, and the model represents a strategic approach through which USAID would consult and collaborate with the private sector for greater scale, sustainability and effectiveness. Under this approach, USAID will attract, or crowd-in, the private investors.

Increasing Government Commitment

Government is the key stakeholder in attracting private sector financing to the WASH sector. To effectively express these commitments, government officials need to understand the benefits and costs of the WASH sectorfrom the perspective of commercial finance. Some of the potential policies and actions include the following, with the commitment type identified in parentheses:

  • Sharing capital costs or providing limited guarantee of recovery of capital costs (lump sum);
  • Guaranteeing continuous payments during project performance to recover capital costs overtime or sharing in expected revenue from tariffs to cover financing costs (revenue flows);
  • Indirect market development by requiring improved operational performance of the utility, whether publicly or privately owned, to reduce expenses and increase revenue, so the utility can enter into direct lending arrangements (regulatory enforcement);
  • Contractually transferring asset management of utilities, if owned by government, through performance-based contracting with private sector service providers (give up control of asset).

Developing a business relationship between governments, utilities and commercial lenders takes time and patience, and the path forward should be gradual to allow all parties to develop trust and confidence. For example, commercial lenders could start with financing smaller projects that enhance revenue for the utility, such as new or upgraded water meters or increasing customer connections. If the utility then dedicates the additional revenue attributable to the project to the private investor, the private investor’s and utility’s interests align around ensuring performance during operation. After the loan is paid off, the additional revenue accrues back to the utility. Once the utility passes this kind of test with private investors, it can expand follow-on borrowing to finance further extensions of the water supply system –again using new cash flow that is “ring-fenced” to repay next the loan.  Meanwhile, scarce public funds are protected and can be used for projects which have high economic value but low financial viability, such as a new sewage treatment system. Overall, the goal is to create more incentives for private capital to partner with donors and government toward shared development goals.

About the authors

  • Lance Morrell is a financial specialist with more than 35 years of professional experience, and is the Founder and Managing Director of FEI Consulting;
  • Michael Ashford is senior clean energy and infrastructure professional with more than 20 years of experience, and is the Global Practice Lead for the Water, Energy, and Sustainable Cities practice at Chemonics International.

This blog post represent the views of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of Chemonics. Photo credit: Gerardo Pesantez / World Bank.

My experience of the RWSN Mentoring Programme

This is a guest blog by Joshua Azaki, a young professional from South Africa enrolled as a mentee in the 2020 RWSN Mentoring Programme.

I was introduced to RWSN by Professor Ulrike Rivett in March 2018 and I signed up to receive updates about the activities of the RWSN. In 2019, when I received the notification about the application for the 2020 mentoring programme, I applied immediately. I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the water sector from experts, professionals and other participants. I was open to learning how they overcame the challenges of working in the water sector. I was glad to be among the successful applicants and privileged to be matched to Dr Vassiki Sanogo as my mentor. My mentor and I soon developed a working plan which included the time frame, the activities to carry out, the aim and objectives and our expectations from the mentoring programme.

The RSWN mentoring programme became one of the outstanding events for me in 2020. As a mentee, the programme was a journey of self-discovery and sharpening of my capabilities. My mentor was an astute, honest, relentless, and very resourceful person. He provided guidance and valuable inputs that will facilitate achieving my personal and professional goals as an upcoming researcher in the water sector. Table 1 summarises the activities we carried out during the mentoring programme. We met virtually nine times via Zoom and Microsoft Teams while keeping in touch through emails. We achieved our goals as spelt out from the beginning of the mentoring programme between March 2020 and December 2020.

Meetings and activitiesAim
NetworkingTo expose the mentee on how to explore and exploit networking opportunities
Academic writingTo improve the writing skills of the mentee by exposing him to tips on writing to the academic community.
BrainstormingTo sharpen the critical reasoning and problem-solving skills of the mentee through analysing journal articles.
CV presentationTo help mentee explore the best ways to professionally present himself
Data analysisTo guide mentee towards choosing the appropriate ways of collecting data and conducting data analysis
Continuous learningTo discuss further on the webinars organised by RWSN
Thematic expertiseTo expose mentee to potential work or research opportunities in the water sector
Time management and record-keepingTo improve mentee’s organisational skills through scheduling of meeting, taking of minutes of and keeping records of meetings
Table 1: Activities carried out during the 2020 RWSN mentoring programme 

Impact of the 2020 RWSN mentoring programme

The impacts of the mentoring programme are numerous, some are listed below:

  1. I learnt more about how to craft a credible research question through identifying gaps in the literature, generating smart and achievable research objectives, ways of conducting research (data collection and data analysis methods) as well as reporting my findings.
  2. I learnt how to select journals to publish in (which includes knowing the target audience of a journal, their writing and referencing style and the impact factor of the journal).
  3. I learnt what an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is and created one.
  4. My organisational, record keeping, and time management skills were sharpened.

The above-listed points were key to me, especially now that I am about to start my doctorate. The mentoring experience provided me with the opportunity to be better prepared to take on the task associated with pursuing my doctorate and future career.

The mentoring programme also helped me navigate the lockdown period that accompanied the COVID 19 pandemic with less stress because I was productively engaged throughout the period. I was exposed to useful resources during the RWSN webinars especially the webinar on WHO/UNICEF JMP methods for monitoring SDG targets for WASH in households.

My mentor was pleased and excited that we worked as a team to achieve all our goals.

In conclusion, the 2020 RWSN mentoring programme was very engaging, educative, interactive and well organised. We thank the organisers and sponsors of the programme for this platform.

About the mentee and his mentor

Joshua Azaki is a Christian, a husband and a postgraduate student with the iCOMMS research team at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. His research interests are broadly in Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), knowledge management in the water sector and the use of persuasive information campaign to encourage water-saving practices. He is about to start his doctorate at the time of writing this blog.

Dr Vassiki Sanogo  is a well-organized and dependable professional, equipped with a positive, can-do attitude in leading and educating diverse levels of team member. Armed with expertise in applied economics, health economics, health/water policy, economic development, public policy, payer/clinical decision-makers, comparative study, cost-effective, budget impact, assess risk, quantitative methods, statistics, business analytics, machine learning, deep learning, visual text analytics, data project architect, forecasting, optimization, experimental and case studies, and data science. Equipped with exceptional ability in working and interacting with students and colleagues in a professional manner. Known for strong work ethic, complemented with unparalleled professionalism and proven ability to conceptualize new ideas as necessary. Articulate communicator, fluent in English, French, and Dioula. Technologies: SAS, SQL, STATA, R, Python, Cplex, Gurobi, Java, C++, TreeAge, Tableau, MATLAB.

About the RWSN Mentoring Programme

For more information on the RWSN Mentoring Programme, see here. RWSN thanks the Swiss Development Cooperation and World Vision for their support to the mentoring programme in 2020.