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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Bangladesh: Providing Water Supply and Sanitation to the Chittagong Hill Tracts
May 2006

After years of waiting, the ethnic peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh now have safe water, sustainable sanitation, and improved hygiene three things that made a big difference in their lives. Representatives from government, nongovernment organizations, the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), and indigenous representatives sat down and worked together to provide basic water and sanitation services for the neglected region. WATER AND SANITATION FOR THE JUMMA PEOPLE A pilot Hygiene Promotion, Sanitation, and Water Supply (HYSAWA) project increased awareness on proper hygiene and provided access to water and sanitation facilities to the indigenous Jumma people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh. Eleven indigenous ethnic peoples, collectively called the Jumma people (High Landers), are the original inhabitants of CHT. They are of a race, language, culture, and religion quite different from the Bengali people who comprise the majority in the country. Changes and developments came to CHT through the concerted efforts of the Hill Tracts NGO Forum, national and local water and sanitation organizations, and representatives from the local population. Together they implemented HYSAWA, which was responsible for bringing basic water and sanitation services to CHT. DANIDA and other counterpart agencies helped make the project a reality. The project combined the delivery not only of hardware by way of new water technologies and acceptable sanitation methodologies, but also software through various capacity building and awareness campaigns on water and sanitation for the staff of the local NGOs, as well as the ethnic minority. The HYSAWA project introduced water wells, a gravity flow water system, deep set pumps, tube wells, and water-sealed latrines. PEACE AND WATER IN CHITTAGONG The Chittagong Hill Tracts is a far-flung mountainous area in southeastern Bangladesh, cut from the rest of country because of its topography. Years of political unrest have also plagued the area since the British, who protected the Jumma people from economic exploitation of nonindigenous people and preserved their traditional sociocultural and political institutions, left the Indian subcontinent in 1947.

Conflicts arose between Jumma tribal leaders and the Government of Pakistan, and then with the Government of Bangladesh when the country gained its independence in 1971. These conditions have deprived most of CHT's ethnic population with basic services such as access to safe water and sanitation. Diseases were commonplace and the mortality and morbidity rates were quite high in the area. Peace was eventually restored with the signing of the CHT Accord by representatives of the Jumma people and the government of Bangladesh in December 1997, which recognized the CHT region as a tribal-inhabited region and introduced a quasi self-rule government system. Following the CHT Accord's signing, a favorable atmosphere for initiating sustainable development interventions in the CHT emerged. Among these interventions is the HYSAWA project. CO-FINANCING, CO-MANAGING, CO-SHARING Financing the project meant setting up of cost sharing and cost recovery mechanisms for building infrastructures, operations, and maintenance. Socialized contributions between rich and poor communities have helped sustain the project. This has worked effectively in the CHT area, especially because of local NGOs' social mobilization efforts, supported by the local government. A Village Development Committee (VDC), composed of representatives from the CHT communities, was formed to serve as link between the NGOs, local government, and communities. The committee actively participated in all project phases, from planning to implementation, and is considered today as the center of all HYSAWA and other development initiatives.

A MODEL HYSAWA PROJECT Today, the project has ensured 100% sanitation coverage in 49 unions in CHT. It has ensured the collection of monthly water levies sufficient to cover operation, maintenance, and major repairs of the system. It has also institutionalized the VDC as a center for coordinating other community-level interventions. The implementation of the HYSAWA project showcased pioneering successes in addressing rural water supply, sanitation, and hygiene programs, the most important of which is the unprecedented cooperation among NGOs, local governments, and communities towards innovative water, sanitation, and hygiene services in an area once shattered by ethnic strife. Today, HYSAWA in CHT is being looked up as a "model approach" in addressing water supply, sanitation and hygiene issues that can be replicated in similar areas in Bangladesh. It opened new opportunities in water and sanitation networking and partnership building for the development of ethnic communities.

RELATED LINK

Serving the Rural Poor: A Review of Civil Society-Led Initiatives in Rural Water and Sanitation

_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in May 2006: http://www.adb.org/water/actions/BAN/Chittagong-Hill.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADBs member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADBs Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.