Workshop held to share and discuss findings of research in Rangpur, Chittagong and Dhaka

Themes: Faecal sludge management Planning Public finance Regulation Research Sanitation Urban Sanitation Research Initiative Utilities
Countries: Bangladesh

On the 27th January, high-level stakeholders from three cities (Dhaka, Chittagong and Rangpur) in Bangladesh came together to discuss the findings of a research project commissioned by WSUP’s Urban Sanitation Research Initiative and delivered by ITN-BUET. This project assessed how Bangladeshi City Corporations deliver sanitation services to their citizens and explains how the external environment, and numerous long-term, operational and short-term factors influence City Corporations’ capacity to plan, finance, design and implement sustainable sanitation services.

Bringing all these major urban sanitation actors together in one room meant that sector-wide aims could be reaffirmed: to ensure that Bangladesh’s recent strides in providing improved on-site sanitation will extend to the poorest, who are most likely to use sub-standard facilities or defecate in the open, and to provide safe faecal sludge management in Bangladeshi cities.

The recently approved IRF-FSM for Bangladesh gives the responsibility of providing improved sanitation (particularly FSM) to City Corporations, but there are significant barriers in the way of City Corporations delivering this new mandate, as highlighted by ITN-BUET’s report.

These barriers include:

  • Low public demand for sanitation, which often means that the City Corporations prioritise other public goods like trash collection or road upkeep
  • Limited funding is allocated to CCs by the national government for sanitation and FSM
  • Lack of awareness within the CCs that they are now the primary public body responsible for on-site sanitation and FSM
  • None of the three City Corporations had a citywide sanitation master plan or a mission statement setting out aims for sanitation (with particularly pro-poor sanitation)
  • Very little or no capacity of CCs officials around city planning or sanitation investment planning

Workshop participants, including the Mayor of Rangpur City Corporation, the CEO and Chief City Planner of Chittagong City Corporation and the Superintending Engineer of Dhaka North City Corporation, discussed these challenges in more detail, proposing ways forward and what City Corporation could do to overcome these barriers.

Several policy recommendations emerged during the workshop, including raising awareness on the importance of safely managed sanitation and FSM among communities and public bodies. The significant role of City Mayors as sanitation ‘change makers’ in City Corporations was also explored.

It is well within Mayors’ remit to drive organisational change – they could, for example, establish new units dedicated to sanitation, implement a more streamlined decision-making process, create new budget lines for sanitation and set pro-poor tariffs, design a master planning strategy so that urban sanitation projects are cohesive, and promote better tools for citywide planning.

From left to right: Mr Abdus Shaheen (Country Programme Manager, WSUP Bangladesh), Dr Mujibur Rahman (Professor of Civil Engineering, BUET), Mr Mustafizur Rahman Mostafa (Mayor, Rangpur City Corporation), and Mr Shamsuddoha (Chief Executive Officer, Chittagong City Corporation).

Researchers also recommended that national-level ministries should devolve some of their decision-making powers to cities and ensure that City Corporations are included in their planning procedures.

Of course, recommendations are only that until they are acted upon – the factors slowing down movement towards SDG 6 in urban sanitation in Bangladesh have been known about for years and discussed numerous times before. However, this workshop demonstrated the drive to overcome barriers among those who now have the clear mandate to deliver change. Rangpur, for example, has become a City Corporation recently and therefore there is a significant opportunity for these recommendations to take root at an early stage of its planning – something that the Mayor was keen to highlight to other attendees of the workshop.

The next stage for the research team is to incorporate the comments raised at the workshop into their final report, which we will share here.

In the meantime, the slides from the research team’s presentation can be accessed online here.

Workshop attendees included the Mayor of Rangpur City Corporation, Mr. Md. Mustafizur Rahman Mostafa, Mr. Shamsuddoha (Chief Executive Officer, Chittagong City Corporation), Mr. Arch. Plnr. A.K.M Rezaul Karim (Chief City Planner, Chittagong City Corporation), Dr. Tariq Bin Yusuf (Superintending Engineer, Dhaka North City Corporation). Thanks to all those who attended for their time and valuable feedback.