Unavailability of data, absence of result-based evaluation and inadequate budget allocation in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector are slowing down the progress in ensuring sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, speakers at a roundtable said yesterday.
To overcome this situation, they suggested an integrated budget for WASH sector with a focus on using surface water, to reduce pressure of groundwater.
Bangla daily Prothom Alo organised the roundtable at CA Bhaban, in association with Water Aid Bangladesh and Unicef.
Speaking as chief guest, Shamsul Alam, a member of the General Economic Division of the planning commission, spoke on the current scenario and government plan on WASH sector.
“We are saying [we have ensured] improved water for 87 percent [of the population], but that excludes arsenic contamination… We are still lagging behind in South Asia,” said Shamsul Alam.
Mentioning that 79 percent of the water used in Bangladesh is underground water, he warned that it could bring “tremendous consequences”.
“The government has plans in this regard... we are switching to surface water quickly,” he added.
Conducted by Sohrab Hossain, associate editor of Prothom Alo, policymakers and experts from different government and non-government organisations participated in the discussion.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, former adviser to a caretaker government stressed on the contextualisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the country.
“Another big issue which needs to be focused on is the whole issue of data. In four years of SDGs, we do not have a proper baseline regarding WASH,” he said, urging to engage Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) properly to collect data ahead of next census in 2021.
Mohammad Monirul Alam, WASH specialist of Unicef, said, “We don't acknowledge [rights of] slum dwellers in the cities. But equity is the most important [in terms of achieving SDGs]. Everybody has to be included in WASH planning in equity perspective.”
Shariful Alam, WASH sector specialists of ministry of public administration, said, “No revision to SDGs has been done in three years [since its initiation]. So unavailability of data will pose serious threat to review the actual situation even after five years.”
Saifur Rahman, superintending engineer of Ground Water Circle, informed that around 12 percent population is still using arsenic-contaminated water, while 42 percent source of drinkable water contains microbial contamination.
Speakers also stressed on need-based financing, as there is a gap between urban and rural people -- especially people of hard-to-reach areas can -- in terms of easy access to safe water and sanitation.
Taqseem A Khan, managing director of WASA; Abdul Wazed, former director general of BBS; and M Shafiqul Islam, additional secretary of statistics and information management department, also spoke at the discussion.