Clean water, hygiene and irrigation

This project focuses on the north of Bangladesh, where the situation regarding water resources is most precarious. Caritas’ successful work in recent years in this region continues with activities such as the construction of latrines, hygiene campaigns and training for cultivation methods adapted to the scarce water resources.



  • Jabarhat Union in Thakurgaon District (N)
  • Radhanagar Union in Chapai Nawabganj District (NW)

Target group
72,389 people in the districts of Thakurgaon and Chapai Nawabganj, incl. 30 schools, 15 health centres, 9 markets and 20 religious institutions

Funding requirement
CHF 1,813,804

Project duration
01.07.2018 to 31.12.2020

Project number

Project objectives
The project aims to support the poorest and most disadvantaged population groups in the north and north-west of Bangladesh who lag far behind the Development Goals in the areas of water and sanitary facilities. The aim of this project is to provide access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene measures and water for irrigation for smallholder farming families.

Project coordinator
Viola Buli, Tel: 041 419 22 46, vbulinot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Background information

Situation analysis: This project focuses on northern Bangladesh, where the situation concerning water resources and the provision of sanitary facilities is most precarious . The water problems are caused, on the one hand, by ‘too little’, and on the other hand by ‘too much’ water. The water shortage in the drought-prone regions is caused by the rapid depletion of groundwater, which is worsened by the extreme weather variability and climate change. Added to this is a poor sanitary infrastructure throughout the country, and consequently a lack of facilities allowing good hygiene practice, which carries high risks of diseases. In contrast, people in the flood-prone regions are confronted with severe and increasingly frequent natural disasters. Tornadoes have increased in recent years, and floods and flood surges cause soil erosion which threatens food security and people’s lives.

Water: The greatest challenge comes from the seasonal variations and the associated poor water supply throughout the region. Large areas in the north of Bangladesh, which suffer from growing groundwater depletion, are further threatened by the overuse of drilled wells and intensive irrigation in agriculture. The drilled wells only secure drinking water for three months a year (July-September). For the rest of the time, the local inhabitants live according to a sort of ‘water scarcity principle’, i.e. they use less water by consuming less drinking water, washing less frequently or refraining completely from bathing. This in turn increases the risk of diseases that are caused by a lack of hygiene. The difficult water situation is made worse because approx. 15% of all drilled wells are privately owned, which prevents their being used by ‘non-privileged people’. The problem with the public wells is their lack of maintenance and management, and consequently their malfunctioning. In addition to the wells, there are also public water reservoirs that are fed by rainwater, are government property and are used in times of water shortage However, these public water reservoirs are often leased to large landowners who reduce access for private use in months of water shortage to a minimum.

Sanitary infrastructure and sanitation / hygiene: 70% of all households in the project region have no access to latrines; old people, disabled people and children under 8 normally don’t use a toilet. In the months when water is scarce, the toilets cannot be used at all because of the lack of water for flushing. The situation with sanitary facilities at home is by no means better than at school, but the socio-cultural situation in Bangladesh prohibits the use of ‘other’ toilets or personal hygiene in public. Girls and women are particularly affected by this situation, since it forces them to mostly, or completely, miss school lessons for around 3 – 5 days a month (20 per cent of school time) because of menstruation. Almost a third of female pupils said in a survey that their monthly period has a negative impact on their school performance.

Schools / health centres / markets: Most schools, health centres and markets in the project region have only limited or no access to water and sanitary facilities. There is no water in the schools to wash one’s hands; there is also a lack of awareness about the need for hygiene. When the children want to drink water or have to go to the toilet, they often go home (and often don’t come back afterwards).

Irrigation: The small farmers have mostly limited access to water for irrigation. Irrigation is mostly carried out with diesel pumps which are operated by large landowners and are leased to the small farmers. In the planting season, the cost of water procurement is more than 30% (!) of total expenditure.

Previous activities of Caritas Switzerland: Caritas Switzerland has already implemented various water projects in Bangladesh in the past. The current project builds on the water consortium project II (2014-2017), which was successfully completed.


What are we doing?

Based on the water and hygiene situation as described above, three results are pursued in the project:

  1. Improved access to WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene): The aim is to ensure secure access to drinking water and improved sanitary and hygiene provisions for 72,389 people in the project area both at home and in schools, markets and health centres. This is to be achieved with an integrated set of measures. They include the construction, reparation und maintenance of latrines, hygiene campaigns as well as organizing the local population into groups responsible for maintenance.
  2. Improved access for smallholder farming families to water and methods for irrigation: The aim is to ensure that more than 900 families in total will be provided with sustainable access to affordable water for irrigation and watering of livestock. Farmers are trained in methods that ensure the sustainable use of the limited water sources (e.g. solar pumps or drip irrigation method). In addition, they are given training in methods of growing vegetables for their own consumption, enabling them to have a balanced diet. Solar pumps and the drip irrigation method are particularly suitable for Bangladesh, since they offer simple and affordable means of compensating for inadequate infrastructure and low water pressure. The drip irrigation method results in saving water (by the precise application of the water, which avoids evaporation losses) and thus in rational and sustainable water management. Sustainability is further enhanced thanks to the reduced use of pesticides and loss of plants. The nutrients are added directly to the water. Since the leaves are not wetted, the plants can be protected from potential fungal diseases. 
  3. Principles and knowledge: All the project partners involved, incl. government functionaries in the water sector, will gain the knowledge and skills to replicate, implement and coordinate good methods and lessons learned throughout the country. 

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