Development partners have urged the government to increase budgetary allocation for water, sanitation and hygiene, also known as WASH, in a bid to achieve sustainable development goals (SDG).
The country has made remarkable progress in the sector, yet 41% of people fail to have safe drinking water and 61% struggle to safely manage sanitation activities, they said.
WaterAid Bangladesh, Power and Participation Research Centre, UNICEF Bangladesh, FANSA Bangladesh, FSM Network, Bangladesh Water Integrity Network, Sanitation and Water for All – End Water Poverty, MHM Platform, and Wash Alliance International made the call at a pre-budget press conference at the National Press Club on Monday.
A universal, affordable and sustainable access to WASH is a key public health issue and the focus of the first two targets of SDG.
For the sector, the budgetary allocation was Tk14,517 crore, a 5.4% of the total annual development programme or ADP, in FY2021-22, noted Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairman of the Power and Participation Research Centre, while presenting the keynote at the event. "However, it was 72% lower than that of FY2016-17."
Mentioning that the hygiene agenda is crucial to address the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the post-Covid realities, he called for ensuring WASH access for vulnerable groups, especially in the emerging climate hotspots.
The development partners also suggested the government prioritise development projects related to SDG, increase allocations for hard-to-reach areas and redress intra-urban allocation inequities.
"Bangladesh showed its success in achieving millennium development goals earlier, which many neighbouring countries are yet to achieve. Meanwhile, SDG included several other issues, for achieving which we need special attention to the WASH sector," Hossain Zillur Rahman said.
He urged the government to take a separate and customised policy for new urban areas – which are growing mostly in unplanned ways – so dwellers there have access to safe drinking water and a well-developed sanitation and hygiene system.
WaterAid Bangladesh Country Director Hasin Jahan said rural areas got only 20% of the allocation made for the WASH sector in the previous years. "But, we should increase the budget for the areas."
Besides, the WASH sector establishments should also be climate-resilient, he added.