A Good Job – Unfinished? How Faecal Contamination of Drinking Water in the ‘Last 100 Metres’ Hurts the Urban Poor

28 May 2017

WaterAid Bangladesh in collaboration with BRAC University, Lancaster University of UK and The Daily Star organized a roundtable discussion on May 28, 2017 at The Daily Star Centre, shedding light on how faecal contamination in the ‘last 100 metres’ of water provisioning is preventing the country’s urban poor population to lead a salutary life.

The main objective of the roundtable was to provide a platform for policy-focused discussion with multi-stakeholders in order to find ways, and preferably come to a mutual consensus, on how to transform current infrastructure and common practices in the last 100 metres of water streaming. Dr. Manoj Roy, Lecturer in Sustainability at Lancaster Environment Centre of Lancaster University, UK and his team of twelve organizations from Bangladesh, India, Tanzania and UK, presented their key research findings from two projects, ongoing since 2013: The EcoPoor:  Urban poor’s access to ecosystem services, and The Last 100 Meters: Safeguarding potable water provisioning to urban informal settlements.

Following the presentation, Dr. Roy mentioned a number propositions that can be adapted to reduce faecal contamination in urban poor communities - this included ensuring that localized sources of contaminants are properly managed, a workforce of new generation community-based WASH engineers are present to support on-ground activities, innovative ‘education pathways’ are built to ensure that invisible faecal contamination is (metaphorically) `made visible’ to ordinary people and those tasked with water provision, and finally strategizing a sanitation plan that, like the provision of water, is a cause for celebration and pride.

He also stated ‘We are at an important point in our continued journey of developing what could be termed a ‘WASH Vaccine’. This is no quick fix injection, but a concerted and sustainable set of actions to prevent faecal contamination within slum communities that could ultimately save millions of lives. By regarding this as a kind of vaccine, we are suggesting that proven actions must be repeated and revitalised – just as with other vaccines.’

Moderated by Md. Liakath Ali, Director of Programme and Policy Advocacy of WaterAid Bangladesh, the roundtable saw participation from Water sector specialists from the government, NGOs and the media.

EcoPoor: Institutions for Urban Poor’s Access to Ecosystem Services project is supported by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme (www.espa.ac.uk). ESPA is a global development research programme funded by the UK Government, supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, Department for International Development and the Economic and Social Research Council. ESPA aims to provide new world-class research evidence demonstrating how ecosystem services can reduce poverty and enhance well-being for the world's poor. The EcoPoor team includes: five Bangladeshi organisations (BRAC University, Dhaka University, Institute of Water Modelling [IWM], International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh [ICDDR,B] and WaterAid Bangladesh); one Tanzanian organisation (Ardhi University); and two UK institutions (Lancaster University [lead organisation] and The University of Manchester).

The Last 100 Metres: Safeguarding Potable Water Provisioning to Urban Informal Settlements project is funded by British Academy Sustainable Development Programme. The team includes: four Bangladeshi organisations (BRAC University, Dhaka University, Dushtha Shasthya Kendra [DSK] and WaterAid Bangladesh); one Indian organisation (Centre for Science and Environment [CSE]); two Tanzanian organisations (Ardhi University and BRAC Tanzania); and three UK institutions (British Water, Lancaster University [lead organisation] and The University of Manchester).