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Separate administrative structure needed for UN declared right to clean water

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 11th December, 2021 10:40:41 PM
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A separate administrative structure like a ministry or department is needed in the country in a bid to protect the UN declared human rights to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, said Mohammad Zobair Hasan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Development Organisation of the Rural Poor (DORP).

“The UN has declared the safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right. Bangladesh was among the countries that voted in favour of the decision of the UN. But there is no notable progress of implementing the decision yet in the country,” he told Daily Sun during a recent interview.

Referring the UN report, he said on 28 July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly had declared that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life.

Zobair Hasan said the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme is an important sector that attracted national policy attention and has been placed in the SDGs (SDG-6).

He said the SDG-6 aims to address the challenges related to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for populations of different ages, gender, socioeconomic groups, religion, ethnicity, persons with disabilities and living in geographically remote and vulnerable areas among others.

The WASH expert said the goals related to other areas, such as poverty reduction, health, and sustainability, affordable and timely accessing water and sanitation, and maintaining hygiene practices by the aforementioned populations, he said adding the government is not paying due attention to it.

“The government should pay due attention to this in a bid to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If the WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) right is not ensured for the country’s people then it will be difficult to reach the SDG targets,” Zobair Hasan said.

Describing the current scenario of Bangladesh in WASH right, he said a large number of people—mostly in rural areas—still lack these basic services including clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities while it is essential to ensure hygiene and clean water during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Mentioning that only 9 years of implementation of the SDG targets is left for the country, he said it is still possible to implement the WASH programmes but special attention of the government is essential to this end and at the same time, adequate allocation of funds is needed immediately.

He said there is no independent department of the government to implement the clean, water, sanitation and hygiene issues of the country while several government departments including the Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED) and Department of Public Health Engineering implement the activities which hamper implementing the programme smoothly.

“It is difficult to implement a specific programme properly by several departments. People also do not know where and how they will get information and solution to their problems relating to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. So, a separate administrative structure like ministry or department is essential to carry out the activities and implement the programme properly,” Zobair Hassan said.

 He said the Local Government Division (LGD) is the lead government agency for SDG 6.1, 6.2, 6a and 6b targets. A portion of the LGD budget goes to WASH-related activities. It is difficult to disentangle the direct WASH budget from macro documents. Mainly, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), and the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) under LGD have allocated for WASH-related activities. 

On the other hand, WASA (Water and Sewerage Authority) works for the water and sanitation in City Corporation. More than three-quarters of the entire WASH budget was directed to WASAs which are designated to provide WASH services to the dwellers of the city corporations, the WASH expert said.

He said according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 (BBS), coverage of Safely Managed Water is 47.9 per cent and people Using soap and water for Handwashing is 74.8 per cent. However, there is no data available for safely managed Sanitation but basic coverage is 64.4 per cent.

On the other hand, conversely, still 39 per cent ‘safely managed sanitation services, respectively according to the latest available information (GED, 2018). However, data is available for national level safely managed sanitation, while in rural areas it is 32 per cent according to JMP 2019, Zobair added.