Over 21 million people in Bangladesh lack access to an improved water source.

38% don't have access to improved sanitation in Bangladesh, over 66 million people.

Over 4,100 children under five years old die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation in Bangladesh.

The MDG target for water for Bangladesh is to reach 89% coverage by 2015. The Government of Bangladesh has set targets of safe drinking water and sanitation for all by 2011 and 2013 respectively.

There has been an unprecedented decline in open defecation – the most risky sanitation practices of all, from 33% in 1990 to 7% in 2008.  Coordinated National Sanitation Campaigns since 2003 and facilitated community wide approaches have had a marked success in moving communities onto fixed place defecation.

The challenge remains to ensure that (a) this behaviour is entrenched and becomes permanent and (b) communities are capacitated to move on from this point towards behaviours that may have greater health benefits and (c) the quality of toilets being constructed by households to be upgraded so that they can be classified as ‘improved’ according to the MDG definition. In spite of the relatively higher percentage of sanitation coverage in the urban areas compared to the rural, the actual sanitation situation is worsened mainly because of high population density.

The use of on-site sanitation is not appropriate in many high density areas due to lack of space and the risk of groundwater contamination. Moreover, de-sludging and safe disposal is another worrying environment problem. Different off-site approaches and shared facilities are needed in high-density urban areas which require high investment costs.

As the effects of climate change are felt, it will become even more important to invest in resilient water supply and sanitation systems to ensure the availability and safety of the water supply, as well appropriate sanitation options that do not further stress water supplies nor pollute the water resources. There is an urgent need for investment and R&D on ensuring sanitation facilities in river and rail transportation system.