Climate Resilient Recovery Action in Bangladesh: A Case of Water ATM and Sanitation Service in Rajshahi

Dipak Bhowmick, Kumar Abhishek, and Keshav Jha present an innovative approach to improving access to clean drinking water and sanitation for Bangladesh’s urban poor.

Why Do We Need Climate-Resilient Recovery Actions, Especially For The Low And Middle-Income Communities?

The local governments across the world are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic while trying to make recovery programmes centred around interventions that focus on equity, economy, and climate action. The pandemic has revealed risks and vulnerabilities but also highlights opportunities as well as scope for new approaches in dealing with similar situations. During the pandemic, the people and the healthcare sector in Bangladesh faced immense problems due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure and information to fight the unprecedented challenges. Cities across Bangladesh, including Narayanganj and Rajshahi, were the major hotspots of COVID-19 affected patients. In the early pandemic period, the fatalities substantially increased forcing local governments to take quick decisions for priority recovery action packages. Cities around the world are interconnected, and sharing knowledge and expertise has proven effective in many ways, especially in tackling global problems like COVID-19.

A focused plan can synthesise efforts for coordinated actions with specific outputs on the horizon. The Resilient Cities Action Package 2021 (ReCAP-21) initiative is an effective intervention to help Bangladesh neutralise the COVID-19 pandemic and build resilience to climate-induced risk and hazards. Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and implemented between June and October 2021, the ReCAP-21 is a partnership between GIZ, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the Resilient Cities Network, and Cities Alliance. The project provided an entry point for local governments to move towards an urban transformation and a resilient recovery process (see this blog for more information).

ReCAP-21 aims to increase the capacity for combating future public health threats (including primary health care, health management, and public life). ICLEI has prepared the ReCAP-21 guidebook, which provides practical support to identify comprehensive solutions that range from finance and physical interventions to cultural practices and governance arrangements that may contribute to achieving more resilient societies. (See the guidebook here for more information). Furthermore, ReCAP-21 aimed to identify cross-sectoral priority recovery action packages (short and medium-term planning) with high resilience values to facilitate global knowledge exchange and peer learning.

Designing and Implementation of Climate Resilient Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Rajshahi City

In an effort to promote sustainable and climate-resilient recovery demonstration projects, solar-powered Water ATMs and hand washing stations have been set up in four different locations of Rajshahi city under the ReCAP-21 project (see pictures below) to help the citizens access clean and safe drinking water with handwashing facilities. The project is expected to benefit the large informal sector workforce and their families in the cities who do not have access to sustainable and affordable water supply facilities. The installation site of Water ATM and handwashing stations are done with discussions from the local city corporation, keeping in mind the most vulnerable population and how they can benefit from the project.

The cost of the dispensed water is kept very low and is being promoted through the involvement of councillors, ward workers, and appropriate channels including the involvement of residents of whom one per ATM is to be kept as Water ATM operator. The project uses Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) systems to power the water vending machine and sensor-based handwashing station. This will save energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions. This intervention is expected to directly benefit approximately 16,000 families and around 1,20,000 people, including the floating population in Rajshahi. The project is expected to increase the adaptive capacity of poor and vulnerable sections of the society in facing extreme events and unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic situation. The Water ATM project is expected to have long-term environmental, social, and, governance benefits for the citizens of Rajshahi city in western Bangladesh.

Lokkhipur Intersection Water ATM © RECAP 21

Shah Makhdum Dorgah Water ATM © RECAP 21

Lokkhipur Intersection Water ATM © RECAP 21

MotiChottor Water ATM © RECAP 21

How To Scale Up Climate-Resilient Recovery Infrastructure Action In Bangladesh Cities?

The interventions under the ReCAP-21 project in Bangladesh have helped Rajshahi and Narayanganj cities in strengthening the culture of urban resilience. It has also helped in emphasising the importance of integrating resilient recovery strategies and action into the development process to build the capacities of the vulnerable and impacted urban sectors and their stakeholders. The ReCAP-21 approach and strategies need to be replicated in all the cities of Bangladesh to create the momentum for local climate resilient recovery while accelerating the implementation of global and national climate commitments and development goals.

Bangladesh’s cities infrastructure are grappling with an intense urbanisation process and climate change impacts are worsening the situation. While the whole community is equally impacted due to the rise of extreme climatic events and the COVID-19 pandemic, often the low and middle-income populations are severely impacted due to the limited access to resources and knowledge. The policy planners and decision-makers need to consider the requirements of sustainable and climate-resilient development while planning urban infrastructure development.

It is important to design sustainable and resilient infrastructure interventions for all the urban systems through a scientific planning process with the active involvement of all concerned stakeholders. Interventions and strategies with high potential for climate resilience benefits and scalability need to be prioritised after careful screening and assessment. The technical capacity and understanding of municipal engineers and officials on climate-resilient recovery planning and implementation need to be enhanced through training need assessment and a series of continuous targeted capacity building events.

Along with the technical capacity of municipal officials, it is also key to increasing the creditworthiness of the local authorities by increasing the source of municipal revenue and limiting the liabilities. The public and private sector investment opportunities can be explored and channelled through proper systematic planning on climate-resilient recovery infrastructure projects designing and implementation. Moreover, the cities should continue to explore new and innovative partnership models to learn and replicate good practices.

You can download the Resilient Cities Action Package here and the Resilient Cities Action Package, Bangladesh here.

Dipak Bhowmick
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    Kumar Abhishek
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      Keshav Jha
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