Institutional & regulatory reform in the evolution of Dhaka's sanitation sector

by Pritum Saha (WSUP), Sam Drabble (WSUP) and Dewi Rimayani Hanoum (UN Habitat)

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Dhaka’s population has multiplied 14 times in 50 years since 1971. The megacity is now the seventh most populous in the world with over 21 million residents. Responsibility for sewered sanitation in the city resides with the utility, Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (DWASA), under the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority Act 1996. DWASA has been active in providing such services since 1963. Responsibility for on-site sanitation, in areas within their jurisdiction, resides with Dhaka’s two city corporations: Dhaka North (DNCC) and Dhaka South (DSCC). City Corporation responsibility for on-site sanitation can be traced back to the City Corporation Act 2009.

This case study explores the recent evolution of Dhaka’s sanitation sector, including planned investments and recent reforms to the institutional and regulatory framework, which provide a basis for strengthening accountability and tackling the entrenched practice of discharging wastewater directly to open surface drains.

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City and population:



  • Urban sanitation provision in Dhaka has split mandates among different institutions.
  • The city is surrounded by rivers, wetlands and canals. Due to urbanization, a significant amount of wetland has been lost, rivers encroached on and canals increasingly polluted. Disposal of solid and faecal waste to these waterbodies has become commonplace, with toilets often connected directly to canals and open surface drains.
  • Until recently, no institution held responsibility for faecal sludge management.


  • The Institutional and Regulatory Framework for Faecal Sludge Management (IRFFSM) has been developed and was approved by the Government of Bangladesh in 2017. It clarifies responsibilities for the management of wastewater and faecal sludge generated from onsite sanitation facilities in different contexts.
  • A separate IRF-FSM was developed for Dhaka, recognizing its specific contextual characteristics as a megacity.
  • The IRF-FSM for Dhaka clearly places responsibility for canal maintenance, enforcement against toilet connection to open surface drains and wider onsite sanitation with the city corporations.
  • Creation of key partnerships with the private sector, target communities, local small businesses, research and developmental organizations (including academia) and funders.