Skip to main content

‘Pani Apa’: How coastal women are leading climate adaptation

This news was originally published in Dhaka Tribune (

“Every morning, I had to walk around 2km to fetch water for my household. It hampered my household work severely. My woes doubled during the dry season,” said 28-year-old Rupali Mondol, a housewife in Borodol Union of Assasuni in Satkhira, one of the worst affected areas of Bangladesh due to climate change. 

While World Water Day is being globally observed today, Bangladesh still finds it challenging to ensure safe and reliable drinking water for people. The problem of safe water is more acute in the coastal region. Frequent natural disasters and rising sea levels have contaminated water sources in the coastal areas and women have had to bear the brunt of it. This reality has forced them to trek miles to fetch fresh drinkable water.

But Rupali's ordeals have eased,thanks to the UNDP and Gender-responsive Coastal Adaptation (GCA) project, jointly funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Bangladesh government. 

Under the GCA project, some 13,308 rainwater harvesting plants have been installed in the households of the two districts. Each tank can store 2,000 litres of rainwater.  According to a survey conducted under the project, women in around 74% of 66,234 households in Khulna and Satkhira are solely responsible for fetching drinking water for their houses.

‘Pani Apa'

After getting a water tank from the UNDP, Rupali does not need to worry about water anymore. She now can store rainwater for several months.  For the maintenance of the water tanks, the project has also employed 101 women, including Rupali, as “Pani Apas”. They work at the community level in five upazilas of Khulna and Satkhira, providing operation and maintenance services for the GCA-installed water tanks. 

Binodini Munda, 30, who lives in Ramjannagar Union under Shyamnagar Upazila, works as “Pani Apa”. Binodini said she became familiar with the rainwater harvesting technology from the GCA project and has been providing service to 57 families.  “I have received training and learned about various tools from them. Now I visit the households that have rainwater tanks and ensure that they can use them without a hitch. I also help the families clean the filter and the pipeline.

“Everyone in the community respects me a lot; my social acceptance has increased. I also have a greater say in my household now,” she said, adding that every household gives her some money for her service. It helps her to bear some of her household expenses.


“Pani Apas” are now very popular figures in the coastal communities; they are considered “change agents”. They are setting examples of women empowerment in the coastal community. 

Like Rupali and Binodini, the “Pani Apas” are leading the action for climate change and accelerating the changes. GCA Project Coordination Specialist Mohammad Iftekhar Hossain said these tanks now serve safe drinking water for around 140,000 people in Khulna and Satkhira around the year. “The coastal women now don't need to walk miles to fetch water, as our project has installed rainwater harvesting systems in which safe drinking water can be stored for a long period.” 

He added: “To ensure sustainability, the GCA project has introduced the innovative approach named ‘Pani Apa'. These women have now emerged as change-makers in their community and are inspiring other women as well. We want to bring about a transformational change in the community through the empowerment of coastal women. We also have far-reaching plans regarding ‘Pani Apa'."