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Life-Water and Health

Please briefly describe your Water ChangeMaker journey

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries affected by climate change. The vountry is Vulnerable to climate change due to climatic, physiographic and socio-economic factors like population, low income, poor resource management etc. Experts say that in the next 50 years almost 50% of Bangladesh’s land will go underwater as the water level of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean is gradually rising due to the effects of global warming. The coastal region of Bangladesh, which encompasses almost 14 southern districts, is at high risk to be affected by climate change. While the lack of access to clean, safe drinking water is a global problem, Bangladesh is particularly hard hit. As the water of Bay rises, the saline water from the sea enters in the low lying region of the coastal belt in southern Bangladesh. All NGOs in Bangladesh are concerned with community-based adaption and resilience. In particular, the Bangladesh Government has a wide range of plans to mitigate the suffering of people in the coastal belt region.

Problem Analysis: As the sea level gradually rises,  people’s lives in the coastal belt are at great risk because the salinity from the Bay engulfs the water in rivers and canals and restricts people from using river water for drinking after filtering. On the other hand, most of the deep well-waters are contaminated by saline water and are not fit to drink, especially the districts nearest to the Bay, such as Upazila.

The desired solution to the problem of saline contamination: In Bangladesh it rains almost 7 months a year, and it rains profusely in the coastal belt region. With simple technology, rainwater can be harvested for 5 months in 2000-liter capacity tanks and in the remaining 7 months people can use rainwater directly. This simple technology involves catching rainwater from a family’s CI sheet roof, which is then stored in a tank, and people can use water from the tank directly. It is completely safe and good for heath as well.

Objectives of the project: 1. Creating awareness with young people about saline intrusion and how to mitigate freshwater scarcity through rainwater harvesting systems (RWHS). Helping youth to better understand why drinking water is important to them, where it comes from, and how we make sure it's safe to drink. 2. Training young people as community facilitators and establishing community centers where techniques for composting, rainwater harvesting and water filtering can be demonstrated to the target population. 3. Providing support to extremely poor families who have no capacity to install a RWHS.

Please describe the change that your initiative created and how was it achieved

The following changes have been achieved:

1. YouthNet for Climate Justice, a youth platform for water rights and climate justice, was activated.

2. Almost 30,000 men, women and youth have increased their awareness of salinity due to climate change effects.

3. In schools and colleges young people have been made aware of saline contamination and the necessity of RWHS.

4. Some 350 young men and women have already been trained on how to install and maintain RWHS.

5. Thirty-five RWHS have already been installed and are being operated

How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?

During the rainy season, a rainwater harvesting system (water tank design) is used to catch and collect rainwater. The rainwater harvesting system design uses gravity for water flow, reducing the electricity that would otherwise be needed for pumping. This water is then available for people to use and consume during the dry season when there is a shortage of clean water. Likewise, a rainwater harvesting system (absorption well design) can also capture rainwater and funnel it directly into the ground in order to conserve groundwater in the future. Poor people are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. They have difficulties in accessing public and social services, including clean water. More than a quarter of the Semarang population (26.47%) was below the poverty line. Some people use river water to meet their daily needs. The water quality is very poor, and users have to walk between 10-30 minutes to access the water source. Rain harvesting systems will help those people by reducing the time needed to collect water and reduce the risk of salinity due to climate change.

What water-related decisions did your initiative influence or improve?

The participation of women in the smooth and proper development process is indispensable, especially a country like Bangladesh which has huge numbers of women as human resources. But regrettably, women in Bangladesh are in many ways regarded as inferior to and attached to men from early childhood and confined to domestic life through male domination, particularly in politics. The social structure in Bangladesh is still working pessimistically towards political participation. The recent local government reform initiated allowing women’s participation at the grassroots level and created reserved quotas and direct election through adult franchises for women in the Union Parishad. However, there are some serious lacunae in gender balancing, both in terms of the government policy and reform agenda. In this project we ensured women’s participation in the decision making. Factors are responsible for keeping them away and suggest that there would be possible solutions to unravel problems like collecting water from RWHS technology.

What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?

Behavior Change Communication (BCC) is a crucial part of Eminence as a majority of our work reflects upon promoting  behavioral pattern change among the targets for the benefit of our society as a whole. Each project and program of Eminence serves to ensure positive behavioral changes among the targeted audiences. Identifying the intended audience’s current stage of behavior change helps tailor approaches and messages to their information needs. Eminence thus creates tailored messages that seek to move the intended audience from its current stage to the next stage. BCC is a process of working with individuals, communities and societies to develop communication strategies that promote positive behaviors which are appropriate to their settings and provide a supportive environment which will enable people to initiate and sustain positive behaviors.  As our main mission includes the creation, promotion, dissemination and translation of evidence-based knowledge into practice to ensure health justice and developmental sovereignty, BCC proves to be most beneficial for all that falls under the umbrella work of Eminence.

In your view: Will the change that was created by your initiative continue?

The project will be sustained by the users of RWHS who will be trained to install and maintain RWHS and water. In this way they will get safe drinking water and keep in good and sound health. Additionally, relevant monitoring and evaluation process and indicators are in place. Youth Participatory monitoring & evaluation (PM&E) is a process through which stakeholders at various levels engage in monitoring or evaluating a project, share control over the content, the process and the results of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) activity, and engage in taking or identifying corrective actions. PM&E focuses on the active engagement of primary stakeholders. The stakeholder groups typically involved in a participatory M&E activity include the end users of project goods and services, including both men and women at the community level; intermediary organizations, including NGOs; private sector businesses involved in the project; and government staff at all levels.

What did you learn during the initiative or after? And is it possible that others could learn from you?

Two-thirds of the country is less than five meters above sea level, and floods increasingly inundate homes, destroy farm production, close businesses, and shut down public infrastructure. Erosion leads to an annual loss of about 10,000 hectares of land and weakens natural coastal defenses and aquatic ecosystems. Freshwater has become scarcer in Bangladesh’s drought-prone northwest and in southwest coastal areas where about 2.5 million profoundly poor residents regularly suffer from shortages of drinking water and water for irrigation. Further, their coastal aquatic ecosystems have been severely compromised. Salt water intrusion from sea level rise in low-lying plains has intensified the risk of food insecurity, the disappearance of employment opportunities for agricultural workers, and the spread of water-related diseases. The changing climate is making lives more difficult for vulnerable communities such as mine. We shall need to work harder to adapt.