Sanitation is mostly synonymous with ‘toilets’. However, this is an incorrect assumption given that toilets, while essential, have a much larger ecosystem associated with it – especially in the context of how these toilets are sustained for long periods.


open defecation as of 2017 from 34% in 1990

with a few variances at the poorest and most vulnerable


of sanitation facilities are safely-managed

According to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), 2021


generation challenges are rising

faecal sludge management and scaling decent public sanitation for all

Despite successes, Bangladesh is faced with 2nd generation sanitation issues – especially that of scaling effective public toilet modelling across public spaces and institutions, resilient facilities in the fringes, and faecal sludge management.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, alone – there are 49 public toilets which is meant to serve a population of 5 million commuters each day. Most of these toilets remain unusable due to issues of sustainably managing the facilities, toilets becoming dirty frequently, and because of safety reasons. The situation is much graver in congested communities where limited number of facilities puts significant load on existing ones and violates WASH rights – despite being under coverage. Toilets located in fringe communities are also rife with challenges inherent to being under an offsite sanitation system – with observations of makeshift open-air facilities a common site in many regions of Bangladesh. Climate impact, particularly for the thousands living in the coastal fringes of Bangladesh have their sanitation facilities frequently destroyed due to tidal surges, cyclonic storms, and other climate change events.

With development in offsite sanitation system, excreta and wastewater management has become an unpalatable challenge – driving a community of practice to understand how to manage generated faecal sludge properly without affecting the environment.

People engaged in the operation, maintenance, and cleanliness of sanitation infrastructures are of fundamental importance if we are realise a sustainable and robust ecosystems. Functional and cultural challenges, along with inadequate support systems present in waste and sanitation workers' daily routine leads to affect the greater sanitation systems and people in urban and rural vicinities.

Who supports the urban sanitation system?

Delowar is a self-employed septic tank cleaner - a trade he took up when he was laid off during COVID-19. He cleans septic tanks manually without any safety gear which can be fatal. He has yet to receive any support from any Government or non-governmental authority.

WaterAid/ DRIK/ Habibul Haque

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