Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kuliarchar Municipality, Bangladesh: Fails to Achieve Target Due to Low Budget Allocation

The role of local government institutions in achieving the target in water, sanitation and public health still remains a far cry at grassroots level due to low budget allocation and negligence of the government in appointing right people at working areas.

The number of people in seven unions and the Kuliarchar Municipality is 0.157 million (according to the 2001 census). Drinking water is scarce in the area specially for the poor who use to collect water from others' tube-wells.

According to the government website the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) is the national lead agency for providing drinking water and waste management in the country excepting Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chittagong cities where WASAs operate. DPHE is responsible exclusively for water supply and sanitation facilities throughout the country excluding the areas where WASAs operate and provide support to the local government institutions (LGIs) in the development and O and M of the water and sanitation facilities.

Surprisingly the DPHE office in Kuliarchar was run by a mechanic month after month and there was literally no one to take care of the water, sanitation and public health related problems of the local people. The lone sub-assistant engineer is responsible to look after the problems of Kuliarchar, Pakundia and Hossainpur, according to Abdus Sattar, the mechanic cum acting office assistant as there is a post of office assistant but no appointment has yet been made.

This reporter came to know that the sub-assistant engineer comes to Kuliarchar work station only 2 or 3 days a month. But he is hardly found in any of the official events and local people never get any specialists' opinion regarding their problem, according to sources.

Abdus Sattar said that their office was supposed to have 12 employees where there are only seven at the DPHE premises including the empty room of the engineer.

Regarding the existing practice at grassroots level, Zobair Hasan, chief of Research, Evaluation and Monitoring of DORP (Development Organisation of the Rural Poor), said if the designated institutions at field level and the responsible persons in these cases used to regularly respond to local level problems, then the people could know about the government's commitment and they could also play vital role if there was any gap in budget or planning.

"But in reality, the responsible persons are not open at all regarding the government's commitment on water, sanitation and public health. Also the budget constraint is a big hindrance for achieving the target in this sector of the government by 2013," said Mr Zobair.

He suggested the concerned ministry must take sincere steps if the government wants to achieve the target of 'Sanitation for all by 2013'.

During a recent visit at Chhaysuti union of Kuliarchar Upazila in Kishoreganj, this reporter came to know that in a pre-budget discussion at union parishad in last April the representatives of ward no 1, where 907 families live, demanded for 117 sanitary latrines and 119 tube-wells. But the poor inhabitants got an allocation of only three tube-wells against their demand though the local administration knows very well about the economic condition of the inhabitants of this particular ward. 

Written by Kamrun Nahar@The Financial Express

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