The ready-made garments sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in the Bangladeshi economy. The influx of workers from rural to urban areas and the high demand for housing in locations close to ready-made garments clusters have resulted in the rapid expansion of unregulated residential communities in urban and peri-urban areas of Bangladesh. In these communities, the designated government agencies responsible for providing basic public services such as water, sanitation and sewerage are often absent. A recent study conducted by Oxfam in Bangladesh indicates that more than three-quarters of ready-made garment workers have no running water inside their residences. Unofficial and informal service providers fill this gap. They charge high costs for low-quality services. The inadequate access to safe drinking is the main contributor to the poor health of residents.
The project “Shujola” aims at providing ready-made garments (RMG) workers in their – often unregulated – residential communities with access to affordable sources of safe water for drinking and bathing. “Shujola” is a Bengali word, meaning clean water source.
The project gives ready-made garments workers and their communities access to safe water at low cost from “water kiosks” that are run by entrepreneurs. A water kiosk can be a water dispensary, a water ATM (Automatic Teller Machine), a bottling plant, or a combination of several of these.
The designated public agencies will engage authorised private sector players to extend the water supply network to new areas. The Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority has already piloted this concept with Drinkwell, a water technology company, and established water ATMs providing safe drinking water across Dhaka City. The results so far are very encouraging and water from ATMs have gained traction in thousands of households and small businesses across the city. Shujola will add value to the existing concept by: