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Dhaka Tribune

South Asian Exchange on public sanitation held in Dhaka

Delegates and stakeholders shared their experience and insights regarding public sanitation awareness and requirements for improvement during the exchange

Update : 20 Jul 2023, 08:08 PM

An informative and goal-driven roundtable discussion, titled ‘South Asian Exchange on Public Sanitation', was held at the capital's Lakeshore Hotel on Thursday.

WaterAid, Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Kimberly-Clark, arranged the program. 

Delegates and stakeholders shared their experience and insights regarding public sanitation awareness and requirements for improvement during the exchange, said a press release on Thursday. 

Along with this, an immersive exhibition also shed light on innovative models that can help address some of the long-persisting public health concerns.

 Courtesy  

Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan are long known to constantly tackle critical health, hygiene, and sanitation challenges. Although substantial progress has been made regarding these difficulties by respective governments, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Non-Profit Organizations (NGOs), different private sector entities, and international aid agencies, limited space, and inadequate maintenance, amid rapid urbanization continue to cause issues on the capacity of systems, exacerbating public sanitation facilities.

Focusing on this issue, the South Asian Exchange on Public Sanitation witnessed a collaboration between WaterAid South Asia Regional Office and the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) for inter-country visits to public toilets in Bangladesh, Nepal and India, that shall enable knowledge sharing and understanding of management modality among the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector representatives from the three countries.

The roundtable and exhibition was attended by Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam; Akbar Hossain, Deputy Secretary, Local Government Division, Bangladesh; Md Khairul Islam, Regional Director, South Asia, WaterAid; Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid Bangladesh; Prof V Srinivas Chary, Director, Centre for Urban Governance, Environment, Energy, and Infrastructure Development, ASCI; visiting delegates from Nepal and India as well as  government, non-government, civil society   and private sector representatives from Bangladesh. 

Shyamal Dutta, general secretary, National Press Club, Bangladesh – moderated the dialogue.

During their visits to India, Nepal and Bangladesh in March and July 2023, the delegates explored various public sanitation facility points across Hyderabad, Warangal, Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Dhaka. 

As a way forward, it was determined that specific guidelines for defining aspirational public toilet features, their operation & maintenance, and financial models etc at South Asian level may assist in obtaining safer and healthier public sanitation facilities in the regions. 

Highlighting the importance of collaboration for tackling mass problems, DNCC mayor Atiqul Islam

Announced: "From now on, all petrol and gas stations and shopping malls in DNCC must have accessible, gender-friendly, properly maintained public toilets with separate sections for females and males.” 

He also announced: “From now on in the public toilets, we can include any kind of advertisement to improve the financial sustainability.”

The mayor also assured that the DNCC will provide their full support for all kinds of public sanitation initiatives by NGOs and the private sector.

On the occasion, Dr Md Khairul Islam, Regional Director, South Asia, WaterAid, said: "Regional learning sharing sessions like the South Asian Exchange are a great platform to share the best practices, ideas, and innovations, particularly in terms of operation & maintenance, harnessing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and other technologies, and keeping the agenda alive for improved use of public toilets by females."

Prof V Srinivas Chary, Director, ASCI, added a summary of the discussion and said: “Public toilet provision is a fundamental right of every citizen like voting and is an integral part of the democratization process. The countries in the South Asia region are miles ahead in terms of public toilet improvements than countries in Europe and America.”

Hasin Jahan, Country Director, WaterAid Bangladesh, said in her concluding remarks: “WaterAid Bangladesh, in partnership with DNCC, has already designed and built several public toilets, which are currently benefiting thousands of common people. Establishing reliable public sanitation points is a prerequisite for achieving SDG 6 and ensuring access to safe water and sanitation for all. We believe our innovations will be embraced and scaled up by the government. We will continue working with the DNCC and other city corporations and municipalities in the country to ensure clean, green, accessible and gender friendly public sanitation systems".

An exhibition on recent innovations in the same regards was also organized at the event, which showcased O&M Models (Bangladesh), Social Enterprise (Bangladesh), Social Audit (India), Innovation Projects (India), and Bus Tour Awareness Campaign (Nepal). 

During the session, delegates and stakeholders provided insights on thematic elements of inclusion for the state of public toilets, operations and maintenance, public-private partnerships, innovation, and monitoring.

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