Although the allocation for water, sanitation and hygiene has increased significantly in the proposed budget, an inadequate allotment for rural and hard-to-reach areas poses a challenge for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6, experts said yesterday.
“The urban allocation, mostly for 11 city corporations, has increased but the rural allocation is insufficient as it was seen in the past budgets,” said Hossain Zillur Rahman, a former adviser to a caretaker government.
He spoke at a press conference on “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene allocation in the budget 2019-2020” organised by WaterAid Bangladesh at National Press Club in Dhaka.
In the proposed budget, the urban areas have collectively received about Tk 8,530 crore for water, sanitation and hygiene, known collectively as WASH. On the other hand, the rural areas got Tk 2,470 crore, according to the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC).
“This poses a big challenge in achieving the SDG 6, which requires the country to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,” said Rahman, also the executive chairman of the PPRC. The economist said there are discrepancies in allocation even within the city corporations.
For example, the allocation for the WASH sector in Gazipur City Corporation surged to Tk 680 crore in the proposed budget from Tk 161 crore in the outgoing fiscal year’s revised budget.
Dhaka South City Corporation has received Tk 843 crore, up from Tk 675 crore.
On the other hand, Tk 76 crore was set aside for Chattogram City Corporation, way lower than the Tk 1,078 crore allocated in the revised budget.
Sylhet City Corporation will get only Tk 34 crore whereas it received Tk 87 crore in 2018-19.
“There was no explanation in the proposed budget why the allocation for the Gazipur and Dhaka south city corporations rose while it fell for Chattogram and Sylhet,” Rahman said.
However, he praised the government for the upward trend in budgetary allocation for the WASH sector.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has proposed to allocate Tk 10,161 crore for the sector in 2019-20, up from Tk 9,570 crore in the revised budget.
Rahman said the WASH expenditure trend shows under-utilisation of the allocation.
Human resources and the capacity of local governments, the Department of Public Health Engineering and municipalities need to be enhanced for the proper use of the funds.
He recommended the government raise allocation to meet WASH needs in rural and hard-to-reach areas such as chars, haors and coastal islands and prioritise WASH in the Eighth Five Year Plan in order to meet the SDG targets of safely managed water and sanitation for all.
“We have to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Md Khairul Islam, country director of WaterAid Bangladesh, said geographical inequality still remains in WASH budgeting, with cities and towns receiving a major portion of the funding while the rural and char areas getting much less although they need the most.
Special emphasis should be given on the lowest income quintile, with provision for subsidies to support access to safe water and sanitation, he said.
Mohammad Monirul Alam, WASH specialist at Unicef Bangladesh; Shah Md Anowar Kamal, executive director at Unnayan Shahojogy Team, a national NGO; and Mohammad Zobair Hasan, director at the Development Organisation of the Rural Poor, also spoke.