Bangladesh's second-largest city gets almost universal access to water

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water supply in Chittagong
Almost 800,000 residents, including slum dwellers, in Chattogram now have access to pure, clean water. Photo courtesy: World Bank

Slum-dwellers in the city of Chattogram, Bangladesh, no longer have to queue up to collect water and spend Bangladeshi Taka 200 ($2.36) for 1,000 liters. Ever since some 40 water taps were installed in a single slum, families can get water whenever they need it—and for just Taka 15-20 or less than 25 cents! 

Nearly all Chattogram residents now receive clean water supply through a few initiatives of the Chattogram Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (CWASA), including a World Bank project. The expanded piped water supply has made life easier and more comfortable for citizens who previously experienced intermittent water supply every week. Slum-dwellers used to fetch water from a faraway place for drinking, cooking, washing, and all other daily needs. Now they get water that is clean – and free from iron and salts. 

Toward universal water access

When the Chittagong Water Supply Improvement and Sanitation Project (CWSISP) was conceived in 2010, the World Bank joined hands with CWASA to support the $186 million project. A decade-long collaboration effort has paid off and achieved significant outcomes,  including:

1. The rehabilitation and extension of 190-kilometer transmission and distribution facilities now ensure round-the-clock water availability covering around 790,000 inhabitants, including slum dwellers.  

2. The piped water supply has significantly improved access to clean water. Anecdotal evidence shows that the availability of clean water significantly reduced water-borne diseases, especially in the slums. 

3. By modernizing its utility services and expanding its coverage, CWASA has become the first water utility service in Bangladesh to achieve the ISO 9001:2015 Certificate for its water production facilities. Obtaining this certification presents advantages and ensures better quality products and services, more reliable production scheduling and delivery, and guarantees standards for annual assessments.

water supply in Chattogram
In slums, there were long lines to get a bucket of water but now, residents can access water at their doorstep. Photo courtesy: World Bank

 

4. Increased efficiency has led to a substantial increase in CWASA revenue collection over the past ten years. In 2010-2011, CWASA’s earnings were BDT 557,562,222 (over $6.5 million) and in 2019-2020, its revenues stood at BDT 1,247,632,906 (over $14 million). 

5. Comprehensive utility modernization activities have helped CWASA to advance on "utility maturity index" or how much consistency it has shown in business processes and systems.   

6. The project has installed two booster pump stations that enabled CWASA to reach far-flung areas.  

7. A new water treatment plant, Sheikh Russel Pani Shodhonaghar, which has a capacity of 90 million liters per day, has been constructed. CWASA is now self-sufficient in water production through surface water sources enabling 24/7 pressurized water supply to households.  

There is still much more that needs to be done. The city needs to establish a comprehensive sanitation system infrastructure to provide households with improved sanitation coverage.  The ISO certification has to be sustained through periodic audits.  

CWASA is now well-positioned to scale up its capability and gradually connect the entire population to a modern sanitation system. Improving institutional capacity cannot be achieved through a single event, rather it is a continuous process, which can only be sustainable when it is emerged through an endogenous process and led by the local actors.

Authors

Arif Ahamed

Senior Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist

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