Bangladesh, here we come!

FINISH Mondial is a partnership between WASTE, Amref Flying Doctors and Aqua for All to scale safe sanitation through Public Private Partnerships, thereby contributing to Sustainable Development Goal 6.

The FINISH partnership approach has proved itself in India (since 2009) and Kenya (since 2013) and is now gradually expanding to several countries in Asia and Africa. Our Program Manager Astrid van Agthoven visited Bangladesh last week for an update on what is happening there:

‘After an initial broad stakeholder consultation early July, the core group of partners gathered end of September in Satkhira Municipality in the South West to further discuss the plans we made. Compared to India and Kenya, Bangladesh has already reached an impressive level of access to sanitation, and microfinance loans for sanitation are quite common. Therefore, FINISH’ focus in Bangladesh is on faecal sludge management (FSM).

In Satkhira town there is no sewerage system however and people use pit latrines or septic tanks that are often overflowing or discharged into storm water drains. Practical Action (global innovator who inspires people to free themselves from poverty) built a small faecal sludge treatment demonstration site a few years ago which can unfortunately only process the waste of about 30-40 households per month. With more than 200,000 people in the municipality, there should be a capacity for treating the waste of at least 650 households per month. That’s when we assume each pit/septic tank will need to be emptied every 5 years. Though in a flood prone area like Satkhira, it would be much better if pits are emptied every year!  But let’s take one step at a time.

The above situation implies that almost all faecal sludge of Satkhira ends up in the environment untreated. Satkhira is not an exception among Bangladeshi towns however,  and it is chosen as the starting point for FINISH as we can build on the work of the SDG WASH Alliance and the Fund Sustainable Water project (in Dutch ‘Fonds Duurzaam Water’, FDW) led by Practical Action here (a.o).

ASA – a large microfinance organization – was one of the parties that asked FINISH to come to Bangladesh. Like in other countries, the idea is to develop FINISH Bangladesh as a public-private partnership. The workshop was a very useful starting point in terms of  building this partnership. However, the private sector was not well represented, as currently desludging is done by the informal sector that is not well organized. FINISH aims at facilitating people who are involved in pit emptying to enhance their business by increasing their market and making their work more dignified, e.g. through proper equipment that will ease their job and protect their health. In addition, the treatment of waste and turning it into usable products – a sector in which currently hardly anybody is employed – is also a good opportunity to enhance livelihoods for vulnerable populations.  

A small, practical start has been made in Satkhira last week, but with large ambitions to reach out to many more municipalities over the coming years’.