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Water works: how a simple technology in Dhaka is changing the way people get clean water

Daphna Berman's picture

Amy Pickering laughs when she thinks of all the things that went wrong with the impact evaluation she recently completed of a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka: delays, monsoons, and more delays.

“It was the hardest project I’ve ever done,” says the seasoned research engineer, now a professor at Tufts University, who was working on a project funded through the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund.  

Clean water is an issue in Dhaka and other overcrowded cities in the region, where contamination by bacteria can lead to high rates of diarrhea, harming children’s growth and health. For Pickering, who specializes in water quality and diarrheal disease, the challenge was finding a water treatment technology that could work without electricity and operate in Dhaka’s extreme weather. 

Amy Pickering, a professor at Tufts University, working on a water chlorination project in the slums of Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka

Shared toilets as the path to health and dignity

Guangzhe CHEN's picture

This post is co-authored with Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid and Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive Officer, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor and was originally published on the Financial Times’ BeyondBrics Blog.  

An alley in Mollar Bosti, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Where space and funding do not permit household toilets, safe, well-managed community latrines can provide a healthier alternative to makeshift, unhygienic toilets.
© Rasel Chowdhury/WaterAid

Mollar Bosti is a crowded slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh, home to 10,000 people: garment workers, rickshaw drivers, and small traders, all living side-by-side in tiny rooms sandwiched along narrow passageways.

With the land subject to monsoon flooding, and no municipal services to speak of, the people of Mollar Basti have been struggling with a very real problem: what to do with an enormous and growing amount of human faeces.

Traditionally, their ‘hanging latrines’ consisted of bamboo and corrugated metal structures suspended on poles above the ground, allowing waste to fall straight down into a soup of mud and trash below. Residents tell stories of rooms flooded with smelly muck during monsoons; outbreaks of diarrhoea and fever would quickly follow.

But conditions have improved for much of the slum. With help of a local NGO, the residents negotiated permission for improvement from a private landowner, and mapped out areas of need. Today, they proudly show visitors their pristine, well-lit community latrines and water points. They report fewer problems with flooding and disease.

World Population Day 2017: What can we learn from Bangladesh?

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
Mom and daughter at a community health center outside Dhaka,
Bangladesh. Photo: Rama George-Alleyne / World Bank

Today marks World Population Day and this year’s theme is “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations”. It is an opportune moment to reflect and continue the conversation on demographic trends that I started through my blog on fertility decline last month.

Las Vegas, Marrakech, Malta, Casablanca – managing dwindling resources in water scarce cities

Richard Abdulnour's picture
Las Vegas via Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com

What do casinos in the Las Vegas desert, beachside cultural sites in Malta, and palm groves around centuries-old markets in Marrakech have in common? The answer lies beneath a veneer of seemingly disparate societies and geographies: this improbable urban trio shares the same story of dwindling water resources and associated crisis management. The good news is that these fast growing, tourist-invaded, and arid urban areas are constantly writing new chapters of their water stories. We believe that these chapters, featuring a world of possibilities for innovation and learning, are worth sharing with water scarce cities around the world.
 
The Water Scarce Cities Initiative (WSC) is a pioneering World Bank global program that connects diverse stakeholders to share their experiences in bolstering integrated approaches for water security and climate resilience. With its sights set on collective progress, WSC partnered with the 5 + 5 group for the Water Strategy in the Western Mediterranean (WSWM) to hold a Regional Water Scarce Cities Workshop in Casablanca, Morocco from May 22-23, 2017. From Cyprus to Barcelona (Spain), the workshop inspired and motivated over 40 diverse participants from the Western Mediterranean region and beyond to explore the connections between their water security and urban resilience experiences.

Changing the village, changing the country

Robin van Kippersluis's picture
How do you persuade people to use a toilet? This is an urgent question across rural India: somewhere near half a billion people are still defecating in the open, and the Swachh Bharat Mission is urging them to stop by 2019.

India has about 650,000 villages. Many have tried different techniques - some successfully, some not. What if there were a “Google of sanitation”, where you could search for success stories of others who have faced the same situation, and a “LinkedIn of Sanitation” where you could reach out to peers with questions?
Pictures: Left: Ms Lunga Devi from Pawa, Pali is interviewed by Government officials in Rajasthan on how she became a natural leader on ODF in her village and helped it transform, as part of the ‘World Bank - Capturing Local Sanitation Solutions’ training.  Right: Villagers from Muzzafarpur district in the State of Bihar talking about local sanitation solutions.

Four political errors to avoid in achieving water and sanitation for all

Nathaniel Mason's picture

Eliminating inequality is integral to the Sustainable Development Goals , from ‘universal access’ to water, to ending poverty ‘everywhere’. Yet in a world where the politics of who gets what is increasingly polarised, leaving no-one behind is fundamentally a political project.

In a recent study with WaterAid in Nepal, for example, we found that in rural areas a combination of poverty, caste, and geography have shut the poorest fifth out of politics. While access to water has increased significantly for others, they are lagging behind.

Every city, country or district has its own political rules, most of which aren’t written down. Yet despite all this complexity, experts working on essential services like water, sanitation, health or education can avoid some common political missteps, wherever they work. Here are four most typical ones:

Of pigs, pythons and population growth – setting the record straight

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
The Nairobi Central Business District.
Photo: Sarah Farhat/The World Bank


I am constantly startled by references to “population growth” as a cause of a number of development challenges.  Whether it’s urbanization, food security, or water scarcity, all too often “population growth” is cited as a cause for pessimism or even a reason not to strive for progress.  I can almost see Thomas Malthus grinning at me from the shadows.

It gets worse. I recently reviewed a paper where higher fertility among minorities was touted as an explanation for their poverty! A few months ago, a respected professional wrote asking why we weren’t doing more on family planning, since fertility in Africa would pretty much stymie any efforts to provide infrastructure-based services! I hear statements to this effect routinely from policy makers in charge of infrastructure ministries and projects (“how can we keep up with the population?” or “nothing we do will be enough unless we control the population”) but am always amazed when I hear them from scientists of different hues.

So I thought I’d try to set the record straight:

How small social enterprises tackle drought challenges in East Africa

Caroline Weimann's picture
Photo: Caroline Weimann/Siemens Stiftung

This past February, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared the drought in his country a national disaster. No rain had fallen for months in East Africa, causing a dire living situation.
 
Tribes migrated to find water and food, and we saw an increase in the amount and severity of conflicts, specifically between herders and owners of large farms.
 
In the cities, the situation is not much better. Nairobi’s main water supply is a dam which is currently only 20% full. The Nairobi Water Company is rationing water, and many people only have running water once a week.

Agriculture is suffering; the price of milk has risen from 40 to 65 Kenyan Shillings (KES) for half a liter in just six months. Maize meal, a staple food, has gone up nearly 40%, with the state recently announcing a subsidy for maize.

Changing the way the world views and manages water: Storytelling through photos

Water Communications's picture

The Joint Secretariat of High Level Panel on Water and Connect4Climate announced today that the winner of the Instagram Photo Competition — #All4TheGreen Photo4Climate Contest Special Blue Prize — for the best photo on water is Probal Rashid, from Bangladesh, with a photo taken in his country showing how water stress is affecting individuals in his community.  

The Special Blue Prize was created as part of the #All4TheGreen Photo4Climate Contest and aimed to select the best photo on the value of water: clean water, dirty water, lack of water, how inadequate access to water and sanitation causes poor health and stunting, how too much or too little water contributes to environmental disasters and human suffering, or how water insecurity can lead to fragility and violence. What is the value of water to you?

  Probal Rashid, Bangladesh   |   Shyamnagar, Satkhira, Bangladesh

 Rani, 9, collects rainwater for drinking. Rainwater is the main source of drinking water in the village of Shyamnagar, Satkhira, Bangladesh. Due to sea-level rising resulting from climate change, limited sweet water sources of the coastal area have widely been contaminated with saline water.

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