Industry Desk: The struggles faced by the country’s poor and low-income group – which began with the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020 – have now worsened by the rampant rise of the prices of essentials commodities.
The pressure of price hikes and inflation will further increase inequality in Bangladesh as a portion of the population keeps grappling with their limited budgets and resources, observed a report prepared under CPD’s Independent Review of Bangladesh’s Development (IRBD) yesterday.
As per CPD findings, prices of essential items such as rice, flour, eggs, edible oil, beef, sugar, onions, milk (both powder and liquid) etc. are substantially higher in Bangladesh when compared to the global market.
The civil society think-tank commented that there is a tendency in the country to blame external factors for high prices even if certain commodities do not have any connections with the global demand.
Shedding light on the volatile crude oil market, CPD suggested the government to make advance purchases to mitigate economic pressure as it believes that making deals when global prices are high will add greater stress on the country, given the shrinking fiscal space.
CPD, during yesterday’s press briefing in Dhaka, made various recommendations for a swift and sustainable post-Covid economic recovery of Bangladesh.
The recommendations are as follows –
The need for strong market intelligence is critical.
Unscrupulous market players have always been active to take advantage of difficult periods, by stockpiling and creating artificial crises in the market.
Efficient market management through close monitoring and supervision will be critical to keep the commodity prices under control during Ramadan and beyond.
The volume of sale of essential commodities through the open market system (OMS) should be increased. Distribution of these commodities must be managed effectively and without any corruption, so that the eligible people have access to these items at low prices.
The government should provide direct cash support to the poor, enhance social protection for low-income families, and extend stimulus to the small businesses for their survival during difficult times.
The government should prepare for maintaining adequate food stock not only through better agricultural production but also through importing food.
There is a need for actual demand estimation of rice and other food items in the country.
During a crisis, food-exporting countries would not export food without meeting their domestic demands first. If they decided to export, the prices would be exorbitant. Therefore, planning the production and import of food should be done early on.
The role of the competition commission needs to be strengthened particularly in the case of the essential consumer goods market. The commission should develop a database, regularly monitor the dominant market players’ operations, examine the market control and manipulation (if any), and take proper measures.
Inflationary pressure will hamper a sustainable and inclusive pandemic recovery, since the real purchasing power of many people will decline, causing further inequality.
Water and sanitation intervention at the community and institutional level using different technologies can change WASH behaviour even in areas with prolonged crises of safe water.
It is widely known that Satkhira usually falls into the clutches of natural calamities, such as cyclones, tidal bore etc. People have a scarcity of water for daily uses, let alone for drinking.
Water, sanitation and hygiene intervention lessens all the miseries people face in the locality as well as ensure better health as they can now remain safe from water-borne diseases and avoid hassles related to water collection.
During the participatory vulnerability assessment review by the internationally reputed organisation WaterAid, before 2014, it was found that there were dilapidated latrines at the household level. Now, many of them now use well-structured safely managed toilets after intervention.
Earlier, women and children used to walk two to four miles from home to collect water for drinking and other purposes. Children sometimes even missed their school hours on the day they went out to collect water. People were seen purchasing unsafe pond water from vans at Tk1 per litre.
But safe water has been ensured at community level through pond sand filters (PSF) in some areas.
Making a comparison between the previous and present situation in the Munshiganj union of Shyamnagar upazila, Engineer Ravine Chakma, programme officer of WaterAid, said that they started the project in the upazila with a district-wide approach with a focus on WASH.
When they started working in the region, they found that local people used to collect and drink rainwater and water from some other sweet water sources through the participatory vulnerability assessment system. But there was neither any system of purification of that water nor any such knowledge.
At the institutional level, there was no water and sanitation structure combined with inadequate facilities compared to the population number.
“We laid emphasis on two areas while working at the community level – how we can purify the pond water to make it suitable for drinking and how we can supply the rainwater by harvesting and purifying it at their doorsteps,” he said.
At the institutional level, WaterAid is providing a safe water and sanitation package while working on motivation regarding hygiene issues.
“We have ensured water supply and sanitation in 12 unions over the past five years through pond sand filter plant, reverse osmosis system and rainwater harvesting. But we face funding limitations as well as communication barriers. That is why we cannot provide water and sanitation to the people in remote areas, such as Gabura and Padma Pukur,” said Ravine.
It was found from the WaterAid data that they have installed WASH facilities in 22 community clinics and WASH blocks at over 40 schools out of the total 98 institutions in Shyamnagar. The reverse osmosis plants were installed for 300 families benefiting 1,800 members.
They can support 100 to 150 families through one PSF. Under the present project, WaterAid has installed over 30 PSFs.
Ravine said the project, which was supposed to end in 2019 starting from 2016, has now been extended up to 2022. But it was not sure whether it will see any further extension.
“The problem of safe drinking water for the local people of coastal district Satkhira will be solved if the government adopts the concept of rainwater harvesting. We are trying to advocate for the rainwater harvesting model so that they can replicate it,” he said.
But till now, there is no such measure taken by the government of reverse osmosis or rainwater harvesting plant in solving the water crises in Satkhira, he added.
“We have set up safe water plants at the places where the government has no plan to take up any such project within the next five years. Moreover, we have a responsibility to look after the plants for 10 years,” he said, adding, “We test water quality on 100% options before handing over the plant and we also conduct monitoring tests every six months on 5% options,” he said.
During a visit to the Tripani Bidyapith School at Munshiganj of Shyamnagar to see the water harvesting plant and sanitation point, it was found that WaterAid has set up a water reservoir with a capacity of 20,000 litres for nearly 700 students at the school. Earlier, the students used to drink the contaminated, dirty water from the nearby pond or carry water from home.
“We have set up the rainwater harvesting plant and sanitation point at the school in 2018 at a cost of Tk10.5 lakh with 20% ownership of the structure by the maintenance committee. We have installed rainwater harvesting plants in 41 schools and 17 community clinics in Shyamnagar,” said Soyed Asadul Islam, project manager of Rupantar and local project implementation partner of WaterAid.
He also informed that they consider the number of students of an educational institution and users of the community clinic while fixing reservoir capacity. There is a measurement of 0.25-litre water per child a day and the total rain \water reserved in the tanks is measured for nine months.
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