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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Bangladesh: Water and Sanitation Initiative for Urban Poor


BACKGROUND Water supply for the urban poor of Dhaka City, especially the slum dwellers, is problematic. The obstacles are both institutional and technical. At the institutional level, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA), the agency that provides water supply and sewerage services in the city, only provides connections to landowners. Slum dwellers are therefore automatically outside of the service coverage. At the technical level, Dhaka does not have continuous water supply. Households must therefore construct storage tanks to store water collected when it is available (often at night). Slum dwellers cannot afford this infrastructure. As a trial solution, the NGO Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK) approached DWASA for connections to the piped water system and served as guarantor for the security deposit and regular payment of bills on behalf of the community. DWASA agreed SOLUTION The pilot project involved establishing two water points in selected communities, the first in 1992 and the second in 1994. Community groups were organized to manage the water points and secure payments of water bills. The first water point failed but the second succeeded tremendously. The community was satisfied with the service, DWASA bills were paid regularly, and DSK recovered its investment cost.

DSK attributes the success of the second water point to the fact that the user groups were organized, oriented to assume the responsibility of managing the water point, and involved in the planning and implementation stages of the project. This generated a sense of community ownership, thereby ensuring sustainability. SPREADING THE GAINS Encouraged by this success, several development institutions collaborated to further test the approach and develop a replicable model of sustainable water supply for the urban poor. Among these are UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, WaterAid, UNICEF and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation. Now, approximately 150 water points have been constructed, servicing 17,500 families or 110,000 people. More are on the way.

*This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in 2002: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADBs member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADBs Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.