Watershed Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Watershed Project (Work Package 5, WP5) led by WaterAid Bangladesh jointly works with implementing organizations like DORP (Development of the Rural Poor), GWA (Gender and Water Alliance) and CSOs like Water Management Citizen Committee and national level WASH networks to influence local government institutions such as the Local Government Division (LGD), Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) and Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) for sustainable WASH services including public WASH budget, water security planning etc. These organizations focus on social inclusion to address the needs of marginalised groups such as the river nomads in Bhola, looking at power relationships within these societies and determining the effects on access to WASH services. Also being developed in Bangladesh are gender-sensitive WASH budget monitoring and analysis tools. Evidence generated with these tools is used to improve advocacy messages, for equitable resource allocation to the neediest. Influencing national level policies and strategies on behalf of poor and marginalised also key focuses.

Advocacy goal of Watershed Bangladesh

The Watershed programme is implemented in Bangladesh to improve governance for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and integrated water resource management (IWRM) so that all citizens, including the most marginalised, can benefit from sustainable services. The immediate goal is to enhance citizens’ ability to obtain information so that civil society organisations (CSOs) can advocate for change based on reliable, accurate data. In order for WASH/IWRM to become more inclusive, grounded in local context and sustainable in the long run, a model of civic engagement is needed that is: a) organised and vocal about the challenges and demands of marginalised communities; and b) capacitated to participate in state-society dialogues and processes related to WASH and IWRM.
Based on comprehensive policy and sectoral analyses, civil society actors will be capacitated in order to enable primary stakeholders to understand and plan for improved IWRM and WASH services in their localities. The lessons and good practices that emerge from these locally grounded management strategies will be fed upwards to national level decision-makers and civil society, and shared horizontally through collaborative platforms to support evidence-based policymaking and advocacy.

Key Objectives of Watershed Bangladesh Project

  • The local CSOs are capable and lobbying for increasing WASH budget and equity in allocation for inclusive and gender-equal WASH and IWRM services
  • Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and other local government duty bearers are sensitized and responsive in favour of the poor and marginalised population on WASH-IWRM related implementation
  • Complimentary national policies and strategies are changed in favour of the poor and marginalized population aiming at “Leaving no one behind”security planning, and budget tracking, with updated information and evidence-based engagement.

The Watershed Bangladesh Project also has prioritized its advocacy goals under three major headings, which can be summarised as;

  • Gender and Social Inclusion
    • MHM strategy is adopted and implemented by responsible authorities to bring synergy among sectors to address special needs of women and girls
  • Finance and Budget
    • Selected Union Parishad of Watershed Project area made separate budget provision for poor and marginalised to address their WASH and IWRM needs
    •  WASH budget allocation of selected Union Parishad of Watershed Project area increased at least up to 10% of the previous year
    • At least 5% National WASH budget allocation increased compare to previous year
  • Policy influencing (Lobby & Advocacy)
    • National Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation 2014 and National Pro-Poor Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation Sector in Bangladesh aligned with SDG
    • Strengthen Water Rule 2018 implementation modalities at local level

The working approach of Watershed Bangladesh demands intervention at two levels, one at the national level where policy influencing, coordination and dialogues are done with stakeholders of larger interest and impact, the other is at local level where capacity of CSOs are built and support is given to conduct lobby and advocacy to influence the local government and policies, including budget at the local level.

WaterAid Bangladesh works at national level with stakeholders to improve and influence policies through coordinated actions in the sector.

The field level implementation is done in two sub districts (Upazilla); Bhola Sadar and Ramgati. The intervention in Bhola Sadar has started since the first year of the project while in Ramgati, it started in the year 2019. The Bhola Sadar Upazilla comes under Bhola district and Barisal division while Ramgati Upazila comes under Lakshmipur district and Chittagong division. Both these sub districts are located in the coastal zone of Bangladesh and vulnerable to extreme climatic conditions such as cyclones, tidal surge and salinity.

Bhola Sadar Upazilla, Bhola District

According to the census of Bangladesh 2011, Bhola Sadar has a population of 4,30,520 where males constitute 49.75% (2,14,212) and females constitute 50.25% (2,16,308). Bhola Sadar has an average literacy rate of 45.2%. It covers an area of 413.16 sq km with 1 municipality, 13 unions and 108 villages.

Source of Drinking Water: In Bhola Sadar Upazila, 97.0% general households get the facility of drinking water from tube-well, 0.6% from tap and the remaining 2.4% households get water from other sources.

Sanitation: In the upazila, 64.6% general households use sanitary latrine, 31.6% non-sanitary latrine and the remaining 3.8% have no toilet facility.

Website of Bhola Sadar Upazilla: http://sadar.bhola.gov.bd/

Population and Housing Census, 2011, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics

Ramgati Upazilla, Lakshmipur District

According to the census of Bangladesh 2011, Ramgati has a population of 2,61,002 where males constitute 49.22% (1,28,449) and females constitute 50.78% (1,32,553). Ramgati has an average literacy rate of 33.91%. It covers an area of 279.89 sq km with 1 municipality and 8 unions.

Source of Drinking Water: In Ramgati Upazila, out of 55,498 households, 47,319 households get the facility of drinking water from tube-well, 172 from tap and the remaining 8,007 households get water from other sources.

Sanitation: In the upazila, 30,945 general households use sanitary latrine, 20,118 non-sanitary latrine and the remaining 4,535 have no toilet facility.

Website of Ramgati Upazilla: http://ramgati.lakshmipur.gov.bd

Population and Housing Census, 2011, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics

Consortium Partners

a. Simavi: Simavi  is responsible to manage the overall project and financial management of the implementing country partners in Bangladesh. Simavi also provides technical advice on capacity strengthening of organisations on lobby and advocacy, gender and social inclusion as well as demanding inclusive services.

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b. Wetlands International South Asia (WISA) is the lead partner in the Watershed India project. It is responsible for implementation, providing scientific and technical support for use and conservation of wetlands. In the consortium, WISA coordinates project implementation including direct liaison with partners and content support on water security elements.

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c. IRC is the knowledge development partner responsible for providing content and capacity development support on implementation elements related to sustainable WASH services, particularly WASH budgets and public finances.

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d. Akvo Foundation leads monitoring, evaluation and learning activities for the project. Akvo introduced technology solutions in the project to capture project data and information sharing. It is also responsible for supporting landscape partners in their efforts towards process documentation and to generate reliable evidence for advocacy.

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Country partners

e. WaterAid Bangladesh: In the Watershed project, WaterAid Bangladesh is the in-country lead with responsibility to  contribute to the capacity building of DORP and local CSOs on systematic lobby and advocacy at local level and link their voices at national level for inclusive WASH and IWRM Through Watershed learning & sharing WaterAid Bangladesh focuses on sustainability of services aligning with SDG 6 and bring more attention to the implementation of Water Rule 2018. Besides, WaterAid facilitates bringing national level CSOs and WASH Networks together and involves them in policy influencing processes in line with the L&A strategy.

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f. Development Organization of the Rural Poor (DORP) works as the main implementing partner in Watershed Bangladesh project. DORP actively works to support the local CSOs to become more inclusive and increase their understanding on the linkages on IWRM and WASH through continuous mentoring and coaching. Alongside sharing learnings of Watershed at different level, DORP will ensure implementation of relevant policies and strategies of government at local level involving the local CSOs, especially Water Rule 2018, Local Government Act etc. Having a strong hold with the LGIs and CSOs, DORP will also instantiate linking local learnings at national level policy influencing process.

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g. Gender and Water Alliance: is involved in providing technical support and coaching to DORP and local CSOs on gender and social inclusion related to WASH and IWRM to ensure application of the knowledge already gained in relation to this.

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In Bangladesh, planning and execution of WASH and WRM services is done at several levels and hierarchies. At the National level, the central policies, guidelines and frameworks are drawn, which are then adapted by the Divisional, District and Local governments. The District and Sub District governments also have policies and programmes pertaining to the local needs. Funds are allocated by the Central government in the annual budgets and the programmes are executed by the respective Division, District and local governments.

Key stakeholders and their functions:

  • Ministry of Water Resources. The Ministry of Water Resources is the apex body of the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh for development and management of the whole water resources of the country. It formulates policies, plans, strategies, guidelines, instructions and acts, rules, regulations, etc. relating to the development and management of water resources, and regulation and control of the institutions reporting to it.
  • Ministry of Local Government.  The Ministry of Local Government is responsible for financing, regulation and inspection of authorities established for local government and village administration. It also looks into the administration of Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), Water Supply and Sewerage Authorities (WASA) and National Institute of Local Government (NILG). Monitoring and supervision of all programmes carried out by the above organisations is also a major responsibility of this ministry.
  • Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE): DPHE is responsible for rural water supply and sanitation facilities as well as the operation and maintenance of these facilities throughout the country.
  • Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), LGED is responsible for planning, developing and maintaining District and downwards level rural, urban and small scale water resources infrastructure development throughout the country.
  • Bangladesh Water Department Board (BWDB),  BWDB is responsible for developing and managing water resources projects, management and mitigation of river bank erosion and promoting food production by surface water irrigation.

Apart from these ministries and departments, the local government represented by Union Parishads, Upazila (Sub District) Parishads play vital role in coordination and support in the implementation of development programmes in their areas. The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), other NGOs working in the implementation areas are also relevant stakeholders for the programme. Other stakeholders can be the upazila level health, education, agriculture and fisheries departments. The district level environment and social welfare departments also come into the pictures when needed.

Despite encouraging progress in safe water supply and sanitation (JMP Report 2019), there is a stark inequality in basic WASH services for the poorest and richest quintiles of Bangladesh’s population. While Bangladesh has achieved great progress in almost eliminating open defecation, the WASH sector is facing multifaceted challenges. These includes water shortage (due to reduced flow of trans-boundary river water, over extraction of ground water and inefficient irrigation practices, while rapid population growth and climate change impacts are already present as critical concerns), quality of water (mainly due to salinity intrusion, arsenic contamination, and excessive use of agrochemicals) and second generation of sanitation challenges (such as climbing the sanitation ladder i.e. moving from unhygienic toilets towards safely managed sanitation and poor management of faecal sludge and industrial waste, etc.). While having quite comprehensive policies and standards on both WASH and Water Resource Management, the knowledge of their existence and implementation of these policies at the local level is low. Problems also include the untimely release of funds.

These problems made Bangladesh one of the strategic countries under the Watershed programme. This means that the programme will look into the capacity building and lobby and advocacy activities within its budget and possibilities. During the inception phase a context analysis was conducted using a local consultant. Considering the long track record of the Watershed partners in WASH sector in Bangladesh, the context analysis was intended to elaborate more on the linkages between IWRM and WASH and the stakeholders who need to be targeted or allied with for successful implementation of the programme.

The related issues which Watershed programme can work on, was also identified. In June 2016, a Theory of Change Workshop took place where the strategic and potential local partners worked on the development of the bases of ToC for WP Bangladesh.

Three path way of changes were developed taking into account three following main strategies of Watershed programme.

  1. Strengthening the capacity of CSOs to conduct lobby and advocacy for Sustainable WASH services for all (the blue path way)
  2. Improving policy implementation, practice and coordination (the orange path way)
  3. The inter-stakeholder dialogue (the green path way)

In Bangladesh, the current programmes, policies and regulatory frameworks provide an enabling environment for promoting universal access to WASH and effective WRM. However, there also exist  challenges, primarily around effective  execution of these  initiatives .  The Watershed project in Bangladesh seeks to address some of these challenges and capacitate rural communities to benefit from the favourable environment .


  • Progressive policies
  • Strong civil society voice
  • Being able to build upon (existing) linkages with local government
  • Implementing partners have improved understanding about the minimum requirements for sustainable and inclusive WASH services
  • With regard to public sector stakeholders, it is also good to mention that appointment of Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina,  in April 2016, to a high-level panel on water, which aims at mobilising “effective action” to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6, provides a good opportunity for Watershed project in Bangladesh.  Many of the relevant public stakeholders have become more interested and active in matters related to SDG 6.
  • Local governments have stronger positions to make decisions.
  • Strong presence of mass media


  •  Insufficient capacity of CSOs in:
  • Effective and evidence based lobby and advocacy to influence the decision making process
  • Awareness of existing rules and regulations on WASH and IWRM
  • Understanding the linkage between WASH and IWRM and how water management limits achievement of sustainable WASH solutions
  • Understanding the requirements for achieving sustainable WASH services for all
  • Holding service providers accountable
    • Despite having comprehensive policies and standards on both WASH and IWRM, the implementation of these policies and even knowledge of their existence at the local level is missing;
    • Overlap and lack of clarity of related roles and responsibilities from different government sectors
    • The coordination among the WASH and IWRM actors in particular among the public sector is non-existing;
  • Lack of legal accountability of sector officials, transparency and regulatory mechanism and monitoring
  • There is no standard for WASH services which can be used to demand the basic services for all from service providers/authorities.

National Policies

National Policy for Safe Water supply & Sanitation, 1998
The key objective of the National Policy for Safe Water Supply and Sanitation is to improve the standard of public health and to ensure improved environment. The policy lays out steps for facilitating access of all citizens to basic level of services in water supply and sanitation as well as influencing behavioral changes in water and sanitation use. The need for building institutional capacity of local governments and communities and promoting sustainable water and sanitation services is recognized.  The policy also acknowledges the ensuring proper storage, management and use of surface water.


National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation & Implementation Plan, 2004
The policy provides a guideline for mitigating the effect of arsenic on people and environment in a holistic and sustainable way. This will also supplement the National Water Policy 1998, National Policy for Safe Water Supply and Sanitation 1998 in fulfilling the national goals of poverty alleviation, public health and food security.


National Sanitation Policy 2005
The primary objective of this national sanitation strategy is to delineate the ways and means of achieving the national target through providing a uniform guideline for all concerned. The scope of this strategy is to address issues related to unhygienic defecation only. However, strategies for addressing the issues of solid waste management, and disposal of household wastewater and stormwater will be considered separately also as a matter of priority.


National Strategy for Water and Sanitation for Hard-to-Reach areas of Bangladesh, 2012
The primary objective of formulating this national strategy is to improve safe drinking water and sanitation coverage in hydro-geologically and socio-economically difficult areas where people have services much less than the national standard. The specific objectives of the national strategy formulation are

  • to develop meaningful definitions of hard-to-reach areas and people, through considering adverse geographical locations, hydro-geological and socio-demographic conditions;
  • to develop criteria for isolating hard to reach areas based on assessment of present water and sanitation coverage, hydro-geologic conditions represented by water availability, vulnerability
  • to natural disasters, and socio-economic parameters; and
  • to identify challenges and develop strategies for improved water and sanitation services to reach the hard to reach areas.


National Strategy for Water supply and Sanitation, 2014
The National strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation 2014 is an integral part of the Sector Development Plan (SDP) 2011-25 for the water and sanitation sector in Bangladesh. The strategy provides the Sector Context, Goal and Objectives, Guiding Principles, Framework, Strategic Direction, Institutional Arrangement and Implementation Plan for water supply and sanitation promotion at national, regional and local level.


National Water Policy, 1999
The National Water Policy, formulated by the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), aims to provide direction to all agencies and institutions relevant to the water sector in Bangladesh, to achieve targeted objectives of the sector. Objectives including addressing issues related to development of all forms of surface water and ground water and management of these resources in an efficient and equitable manner, and ensuring water availability to all elements of society, particularly the poor, women and children.


The Bangladesh Irrigation Water Rate Ordinance, 1983
An ordinance to consolidate and amend the law relating to the imposition of water rate for supply, regulation or storage of water for irrigation or drainage.


River Research Institute Act, 1990
This is an act made to establish a River Research Institute, which shall have the following duties;

a) to control, by means of geographical models, the preparation of maps required for river regulation, prevention of embankment breaks, flood control and irrigation and drainage, and to control, by means of geographical models, river mechanics, measures to counter the silting up of rivers and researches on estuaries and tidings of rivers;

b) to control, by means of statistical models, the currents and area of water distribution of rivers destined for the raising of water reserves, hydrology, the use of surface and ground water and adjacent subjects, especially the ratio of saltiness and the quality of water;

c) to examine the equipment used in constructions made for the purpose of river regulation, prevention of embankment breaks, flood control, and irrigation and drainage, and to examine and evaluate the standard of the constructions;

d) to direct training programs relating to the above mentioned subjects, and to publish bulletins and reports on allied technical subjects;

e) to advise the Government, local authorities or other institutions on any of the above mentioned subjects;

f) to co-operate with such domestic or foreign institutes as are, according to their duties, appointed to the same kind of works, and to direct joint programs;

g) to take all measures necessary to fulfil the above mentioned duties.


Water Resource Planning Act, 1992
An act made to ensure the development and balanced use of water resources and establish an institution with following responsibilities,

a) to conduct the general planning of environmentally balanced water resources for the purpose of developing water resources;

b) to determine the national means and methods for the scientific utilisation and preservation of water resources;

c) to give advice to other institutions involved in the development, utilisation and preservation of water resources;

d) to co-operate in the investigation of any organization appointed to the development, utilisation and preservation of water resources, and to conduct, if necessary, special investigations on any matter relating thereto;

e) to evaluate and review any matter which has arisen from measures taken by any organization appointed to the development, utilisation and preservation of water resources;

f) to improve the teaching, training relating to, and to raise the professional standard in, the utilisation of water resources;


Ganges Water Treaty
Ganges Water Treaty is According to the treaty, the flow at Farakka would be shared based on a unique sharing formula between India and Bangladesh during the dry season (January–May), further divided into fifteen 10-day cycles. The Treaty also sets out the basis through an indicative schedule, calculated by the total average historic flow at Farakka between 1949 and 1988, on which each country's share of water is to be determined. The most notable feature of the Treaty is the condition that each country is guaranteed to receive 35,000 cusec (equivalent to 991 m3/s) of flow in alternate 10-day cycles during the most critical periods between March 11 and May 10.


Coastal Zone Policy, 2005
The Coastal Zone Policy, formulated by the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), intends to provide a general guidance to all agencies and institutions concerned for the management and development of the coastal zone in a manner that provides a secure and conducive environment for coastal communities to pursue their life and livelihoods. Amongst several objectives it identifies the following: the creation of sustainable livelihoods; intensifying the coverage of safe drinking water facilities; reducing vulnerabilities (including to climate change) and closing the gender gap.


Bangladesh Water Act, 2013
An act made to make provisions for the integrated development, management, abstraction, distribution, use, protection and conservation of water resources.


Coastal Development Strategy, 2006
The Coastal Development Strategy is based on the approved Coastal Zone Policy 2005. It is the linking pin between the Coastal Zone Policy and concrete interventions. It prepares for coordinated priority actions and arrangements for their implementation through selecting strategic priorities and setting targets.


Groundwater Management Ordinance, 1985
An ordinance to manage the ground water resources for agricultural production.


National Agriculture Policy, 1999
The overall objective of the National Agriculture Policy is to make the nation self-sufficient in food through increasing production of all crops including cereals and ensure a dependable food security system for all.

The Watershed programme promotes “ evidence based advocacy” for improved WASH services and IWRM. All data collected within the programme are directed towards building evidence that supports lobby and advocacy initiatives in the projects. In Watershed Bangladesh, data collection was done right from the inception phase followed by a baseline. After the implementation, different sorts of primary data were collected, collated, analysed and disseminated to further the project advocacy objectives.

Secondary data review, through a situation analysis and baseline, was conducted to collect existing information about WASH and IWRM to identify the current situation, opportunities and challenges as well as priority areas for implementation. Reviews were also done to assess the relevance of policies and the institutional structures for service delivery within respective government departments and the related networks for WASH and IWRM.




Partners of the country programme have been engaged in activities with the intervention communities to develop resources based on research through workshops and meetings, interviews, group discussions and household visits. The resources developed out of these activities have served to be insightful and directive for the programme.

Joint Advocacy Strategy:

The key issues and objectives of this strategy is to bring all the Watershed and WAI WASH SDG programmes partners together to influence national level policies and practices for promoting WASH and IWRM nexus in line with SDG 6 are:

  • More and equitable WASH Budget allocation at national level
  • National Strategy for Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in place to bring synergy among sectors to address special need of women and girls (i.e. approval of a National Strategy for Menstrual Hygiene Management)
  • Finalization of Water Rule in line with Water Act 2013 with provision of CSOs involvement in planning and decision making (i.e. functioning of local level IWRM Committees)
  • Update of National Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation 2014 aligning with SDG 6 to address leaving no one behind agenda through pro-poor and safely managed WASH services
  • Update of Pro-Poor Strategy for Water and Sanitation Sector in Bangladesh of 2005 to clearly define who are the poor, appropriate water and sanitation service levels and subsidy mechanisms by 2020


Water Security Plan of Veduria Union 2019:

Watershed Bangladesh has identified conjunctive surface water and groundwater use for WASH programme as an advocacy agenda. An enabling environment can be created by improving information base and use of surface water resources so that overall dependence on groundwater is reduced and Water Security maintained and enhanced. For this purpose, a model Water Security Plan for Veduria Union is developed as a demonstration of ways in which wetlands and Water Security consideration could be linked with WASH planning. It will be done by highlighting the role of wetlands in achieving Water Security.



Updated Water Security Plan of Veduria Union 2020

This document presents the outcomes of water security planning for Veduria Union prepared under the ambit of Watershed Bangladesh strategic partnership. The document specifically highlights how improving water management in Veduria can enhance water security. This document is supposed to be a guide for local CSOs to engage with government functionaries and duty bearers on aspects of water security and wetlands management.



Social Mapping based Outcome Monitoring - Bhola Sadar Upazila:

As part of the empowering strategy of the Watershed programme in Bangladesh, capacity building of communities was undertaken to enhance its understanding of the situation on the ground so as to enable them to carry out their own sustainability monitoring. The objectives of carrying out the sustainability monitoring are 1. Planning 2. Evidence-based Lobby & Advocacy 3. Empowerment. Following a workshop on social mapping for community monitoring in November 2017, the exercise was initiated in two unions of Bhola Sadar, Dhania and Veduria. The activity started in 2 wards of Dhania union in early 2018. By mid-2019, all 18 wards of these two unions had been completed.




Social Mapping based Outcome Monitoring - Ramgati Upazila:

The social mapping exercise done in Bhola Sadar and following its outcome, similar exercise was replicated in Ramgati Upazila where the intervention started in 2019. Eighteen wards in two unions, Char Alexander and Char Badam were covered in 2020 to conduct social mapping. This document illustrates findings gathered from the social mapping.



Water Quality Test Survey in Veduria Union:

To support the revision of the Water Security Plan of Veduria Union in Bhola Sadar Upazila, a water quality test survey was planned covering water sources at household and public places. This survey was backed up with technological options of water quality test using digital way to collect the test results as well as other information from the household and public places. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only about 50% of the planned samples could be included in the survey.

Water Quality Survey_Watershed Bangladesh

Please find below the latest project updates from team members of the Watershed India consortium.