Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is one of the most densely populated and fastest-growing megacities in the world. The city faces challenges in managing its urbanization and ensuring sustainable development One of the critical issues is the inadequate management of wastewater and fecal sludge. A recent study from Saint Louis University found that Dhaka has one of the greatest amounts of urban methane in the world. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and also affects air quality and human health. Methane enhancements correlate with rates of untreated wastewater, which contains organic matter that decomposes anaerobically and releases methane into the atmosphere.

To address this challenge, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) organized a sanitation fair on March 9 and 10, 2023, at the Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed Park. The authority aimed to raise awareness and promote on-site solutions for improving wastewater treatment in the city. The fair showcased various technologies and models of on-site wastewater treatment plants for residential and commercial buildings.

Mr. Atiqul Islam, the Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, emphasized that fecal sludge lines should not be connected to stormwater drains and that technology should be utilized to ensure proper wastewater management. Several incidents of explosions due to gas accumulation necessitate the introduction of proper technologies in old buildings. He further stated that the government must communicate with the public to encourage them to install proper technologies to prevent pollution and make the city pollution-free. He urged that the government, utilities, and private sectors must work together to align efforts, utilize resources efficiently, and perform proper operation and maintenance.

The chairman of Rajuk, the authoritative board for building planning and development control, Mr. Md. Anisur Rahman Miah announced that a new building code will make wastewater treatment facilities mandatory for all new constructions in the city. He also said that Rajuk will inspect every building for proper piping and ventilation of septic tanks.

Mr. Engr. Taqsem A. Khan, the Managing Director of Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) stated that they are committed to restoring the rivers and ensuring safe water for all. They continuously improve the sewerage system and collection network to the centralized wastewater treatments. He admitted that onsite sanitation alone is not sustainable for a megacity like Dhaka, which has four rivers that are heavily polluted by fecal matter.

The sanitation fair also invited Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF representative to Bangladesh, who praised the initiative and shared some insights from his experience. He said that improving wastewater treatment requires not only good technology and leadership but also strong government commitment and public awareness. He emphasized that people need to understand the reasons and benefits of treating wastewater, such as preventing diseases, saving money, and protecting the environment. He said that real change comes from within, and urged the community leaders to take charge and lead the change.

Honorable Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister, Mr. Md. Tazul Islam, emphasized the need for collaboration between the government, utilities, and private sectors to address the wastewater and fecal sludge management issues. While initiatives have been taken, it is now time for implementation and execution. The government, utilities, and private sectors must work together to align efforts and utilize resources efficiently. Collaboration is key to finding long-term solutions that are environmentally sustainable and economically viable.