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Clean water thanks to solar energy

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 the installation of water pumps operated with solar energy.


Bangladesh, Thakurgaon (N) and Chapai Nawabganj (NW)

Target group
Approx. 53,000 people in the sub-districts of Thakurgaon and Chapai Nawabganj, incl. 4 schools, 2 health centres and 2 markets

Funding requirement
CHF 811,171

Project duration
01.08.14 to 31.12.17 (will be continued)

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 Millennium 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
Ethel Grabher, Tel: 041 419 23 52, egrabherto make life hard for spam bots@to make life hard for spam botscaritasto make life hard for spam



Background information

Analysis of the situation: 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/installations and 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.

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. However, the price of diesel is high; in addition, there are costs for electricity, the transport of machinery, and its maintenance. In the planting season, the cost of water procurement is more than 30% (!) of total expenditure.

Caritas’ involvement in the past: Caritas Switzerland has already implemented various water projects in Bangladesh in the past. The current project builds on the water consortium project I (2011-2013), which successfully supported and tested the first-time use of solar water pumps for smallholder farmers as an alternative to the traditional diesel pumps. In addition, WASH and various awareness-raising campaigns on the need for hygiene and water practices were implemented by Caritas in CMES schools and the surrounding villages.


What are we doing?

With the introduction of new technology (solar water pump, see above), the smallholder farmers have gained access to new ways of irrigating their land. Although the new system requires batteries, it is mobile and can be charged directly through solar energy (via FV panels, an electric motor controlled via a small transformer). Moreover, a (non-mobile) water storage tank is useful, which allows regulating the pumped water for effective irrigation. The new project builds on past experiences and successes (above all through the solar water pumps) and extends these.

The following 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 50,000 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.

2. Improved access for smallholder farming families to water for irrigation: Sustainable access to cheap water for irrigation and for livestock will be ensured for more than 760 families.

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. Funding and project partners: The project is largely funded by SDC via the water consortium project phase II. The budget for 3 years is more than CHF 800,000 (2014-2016). The main project partners responsible for the implementation are Caritas Bangladesh and Caritas Switzerland.

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