Bangladesh: Improving Water Supply and Sanitation

October 8, 2016


Challenges – Deterioration of access and growing sanitation threats

Though Bangladesh has for many years enjoyed almost universal access to drinking water, arsenic contamination of 22 percent of the country’s tube wells lowered the service coverage to below 80 percent.

Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing open defecation, from 34 percent in 1990 to just one percent of the national population in 2015.However, the current rate of improved sanitation is 61 percent, growing at only 1.1 percent annually.

Still, the quality of sanitation coverage is an emerging area of concern, with more than 40 percent of all latrines classified as “unimproved.” Drinking water access is widespread, but half of the drinking water consumed fails to meet water safety standards. In urban areas of Bangladesh, piped water supply reaches only about one-third of the population, and there is no systematic sewer disposal and treatment system. Only Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, has a sewer system, and it serves just 18 percent of the city. 

Planning and service delivery are often supply driven, and government agencies have overlapping functions and pay insufficient attention to operation and maintenance issues.

Waterborne diseases are widespread, which fuels rapid transmission of gastrointestinal pathogens that can have disastrous impact on health and nutrition.


The Bangladesh Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (BRWSSP) aims to provide hygienic sanitation and safe water for around 1.1 million people living in rural areas with high arsenic or saline infiltration.

Solutions – Multi-pronged assistance

The Bangladesh Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, to which the World Bank has committed $43 million since 2012, aims to increase a safe water supply and hygienic sanitation in the rural areas of Bangladesh, where shallow aquifers are highly contaminated by arsenic and other pollutants.

The Bank’s OBA Sanitation Microfinance Program focuses on increasing access to hygienic sanitation facilities for low-income households in rural areas of Bangladesh through improved affordability at the household level and the adoption of sanitation microfinance. This initiative links to a Bank technical assistance program, Scaling-up MFI lending for improved rural sanitation in Bangladesh, that promotes  sanitation marketing and includes private-sector engagement.

The Chittagong Water Supply Improvement and Sanitation Project ($144 million from the Bank for Fiscal Year 2011 to 2018) is supporting to increase the sustainable access to safe water and improved sanitation, and it supports the establishment of a long-term water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure and operational management program in Chittagong.

The Bank committed $72 million to the Dhaka Water Supply and Sanitation Project for Bangladesh during Fiscal Years 2009 to 2016, which supported the improvement of storm-water drainage in select catchments in Dhaka, and DWASA’s planning capacity in the areas of sanitation and drainage.

“Bangladesh Poverty Diagnostics for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene” is a Bank-produced guide to sector strategies about delivering water and sanitation services to the bottom 40 percent of Bangladesh’s population. It contains new evidence on the linkages to other human development sectors such as health and education.


Analytical study is underway to develop service delivery options for medium to small Pouarshavas (municipalities) where no piped water supply currently exists and where there is a demand for safe potable water supply.

Results – Rehabilitation and more access

The Bangladesh Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project has funded the construction of a piped water supply scheme, 11,900 water options and 36,000 hygienic latrines that benefit 948,000 people in the rural areas.

By 2017, it is expected to provide 924,000 people with access to improved water sources; 14,000 community water points constructed or rehabilitated; 28,000 new piped household water connections; 275,000 people with access to hygienic latrines; and altogether 1,199,000 people with access to improved water sources and hygienic latrines.

The Dhaka Water Supply Project built two storm water pumping stations with a total capacity of 40 cubic meters and rehabilitated 12 canals benefitting a total of 3.5 million people in the city. The project has also supported preparation of drainage and sewerage master plans for Dhaka City, improving the utility’s investment planning capacity.

The construction of a water treatment plant, transmission and distribution systems continue under the Chittagong Water Supply Improvement Project. The project intends to serve a total of 150,000 people with access to improved water sources by project closing. It will also assist CWASA to achieve 85 percent of operations and maintenance cost coverage from direct water sales revenues, and support CWASA towards achieving utility maturity level 3. Finally, it will support identification of $150 million worth of priority sanitation and drainage investments. A technical assistance for developing sanitation and drainage master plans in Chittagong has begun under the project.

Towards the Future: The World Bank will continue its support of a range of projects that will improve sanitation in many parts of Bangladesh.