Water and sanitation intervention at the community and institutional level using different technologies can change WASH behaviour even in areas with prolonged crises of safe water.
It is widely known that Satkhira usually falls into the clutches of natural calamities, such as cyclones, tidal bore etc. People have a scarcity of water for daily uses, let alone for drinking.
Water, sanitation and hygiene intervention lessens all the miseries people face in the locality as well as ensure better health as they can now remain safe from water-borne diseases and avoid hassles related to water collection.
During the participatory vulnerability assessment review by the internationally reputed organisation WaterAid, before 2014, it was found that there were dilapidated latrines at the household level. Now, many of them now use well-structured safely managed toilets after intervention.
Earlier, women and children used to walk two to four miles from home to collect water for drinking and other purposes. Children sometimes even missed their school hours on the day they went out to collect water. People were seen purchasing unsafe pond water from vans at Tk1 per litre.
But safe water has been ensured at community level through pond sand filters (PSF) in some areas.
Making a comparison between the previous and present situation in the Munshiganj union of Shyamnagarupazila, Engineer Ravine Chakma, programme officer of WaterAid, told The Business Standard that they started the project in the upazila with a district-wide approach with a focus on WASH.
When they started working in the region, they found that local people used to collect and drink rainwater and water from some other sweet water sources through the participatory vulnerability assessment system. But there was neither any system of purification of that water nor any such knowledge.
At the institutional level, there was no water and sanitation structure combined with inadequate facilities compared to the population number.
"We laid emphasis on two areas while working at the community level – how we can purify the pond water to make it suitable for drinking and how we can supply the rainwater by harvesting and purifying it at their doorsteps," he said.
At the institutional level, WaterAid is providing a safe water and sanitation package while working on motivation regarding hygiene issues.
"We have ensured water supply and sanitation in 12 unions over the past five years through pond sand filter plant, reverse osmosis system and rainwater harvesting. But we face funding limitations as well as communication barriers. That is why we cannot provide water and sanitation to the people in remote areas, such as Gabura and Padma Pukur," said Ravine.
It was found from the WaterAid data that they have installed WASH facilities in 22 community clinics and WASH blocks at over 40 schools out of the total 98 institutions in Shyamnagar. The reverse osmosis plants were installed for 300 families benefiting 1,800 members.
They can support 100 to 150 families through one PSF. Under the present project, WaterAid has installed over 30 PSFs.
Ravine said the project, which was supposed to end in 2019 starting from 2016, has now been extended up to 2022. But it was not sure whether it will see any further extension.
"The problem of safe drinking water for the local people of coastal district Satkhira will be solved if the government adopts the concept of rainwater harvesting. We are trying to advocate for the rainwater harvesting model so that they can replicate it," he said.
But till now, there is no such measure taken by the government of reverse osmosis or rainwater harvesting plant in solving the water crises in Satkhira, he added.
"We have set up safe water plants at the places where the government has no plan to take up any such project within the next five years. Moreover, we have a responsibility to look after the plants for 10 years," he said, adding, "We test water quality on 100% options before handing over the plant and we also conduct monitoring tests every six months on 5% options," he said.
During a visit to the TripaniBidyapith School at Munshiganj of Shyamnagar to see the water harvesting plant and sanitation point, it was found that WaterAid has set up a water reservoir with a capacity of 20,000 litres for nearly 700 students at the school. Earlier, the students used to drink the contaminated, dirty water from the nearby pond or carry water from home.
"We have set up the rainwater harvesting plant and sanitation point at the school in 2018 at a cost of Tk10.5 lakh with 20% ownership of the structure by the maintenance committee. We have installed rainwater harvesting plants in 41 schools and 17 community clinics in Shyamnagar," said SoyedAsadul Islam, project manager of Rupantar and local project implementation partner of WaterAid.
He also informed that they consider the number of students of an educational institution and users of the community clinic while fixing reservoir capacity. There is a measurement of 0.25-litre water per child a day and the total rain \water reserved in the tanks is measured for nine months.