Project Details

Participation and sustainability: experimental evidence from safe water sources in Bangladesh

Funding Agency :
FORMAS (Swedish Research Council for sustainable development)
Proejct Period :
February 2019 - June 2024
Total Budget :
Location :
District: Bogra Upazila: Shibganj, Sonatala District: Gaibandha Upazila: Gobindaganj Distrct: Gopalganj Upazila: Sadar District: Chandpur Upazila: Matlab (North), Matlab (South)
Project Objective & Goal :

Sustainable Development Goal 9 sets out the challenge of providing “affordable and equitable access for all” to “sustainable and resilient infrastructure”. However, infrastructure is woefully underprovided in much of the developing world, and in many cases falls rapidly into disrepair. The problem is particularly acute in poor and remote rural areas, where responsibility for maintenance and repair of infrastructure largely lies with communities. Policymakers frequently claim that a solution to this problem is beneficiary participation in the design or financing of infrastructure. Such participation reportedly creates “buy-in” or a sense of ownership, thereby increasing the likelihood of maintenance and repair. However, such participation imposes additional costs on beneficiaries, who may be extremely poor. The ubiquity of the claim that participation affects sustainability persists despite a lack of causal evidence, which arises because participatory projects may differ from non-participatory projects in other ways that bias comparisons between them. This study will assemble up to 13 years of data from more than 700 wells constructed in almost 400 villages in rural Bangladesh (Bogura, Gaibandha, Gopalganj and Chandpur districts) under three different research projects CUAMP, CCLPG and SASMIT. Using these novel data, and exploiting experimental variation in the type and degree of community participation in project implementation, we will provide new causal evidence on whether participation influences sustainability.

The context for our study is Bangladesh, where around 80 million people still drink water with either arsenic or microbial contamination. Interventions to provide safe drinking water in rural areas generally involve the construction of community wells that are deep enough to draw water that is neither contaminated by arsenic, nor by microbial contamination originating from animal or human waste. In this study, we measure the sustainability of safe drinking water provision in more than 700 of such wells, constructed as part of three separate programs in rural Bangladesh between 2008 and 2017. Sustainability, here, means the continued provision of project benefits - in this case, safe drinking water - which necessitates maintenance and repair. To measure sustainability, we collect novel data which, combined with data from our previous research, will form a panel dataset tracking well condition, water availability, and water quality in more than 700 wells from construction until 2021 i.e. for up to 13 years.

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Focal Person

    Md. Ahasan Habib, PhD

    Co-Principal Investigator & Head of Research, Monitoring & Evaluation

    NGO Forum for Public Health


Research Collaborators

    Prosun Bhattacharya, PhD

    Professor, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Stockholm,Sweden.

    Anna Tompsett, PhD

    Assistant Professor, Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University, Sweden