Can collective action strategies motivate behavior change to reduce open defecation in rural India?

Can collective action strategies motivate behavior change to reduce open defecation in rural India? 2016. 


  • Payal Hathi, research institute for compassionate economics (r.i.c.e.)
  • Dean Spears,Economics and Planning Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; r.i.c.e.
  • Diane Coffey, Economics and Planning Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Woodrow Wilson School of Public andInternational Affairs at Princeton University; r.i.c.e.

The world’s remaining open defecation is increasingly concentrated in rural India. The Indian government’s efforts to reduce open defecation by providing subsidies for latrine construction have been largely unsuccessful in addressing the problem.

It is now clear that behavior change must be the priority if progress on ending open defecation is to be made. While community-led strategies have proven effective in various developing country contexts, there are serious reasons to question whether similar methods can work in rural India.

Through both quantitative and qualitative analyses, we find
that strict social hierarchies that continue to govern daily interactions in rural life today obstruct the spirit of cooperation upon which such methods rely.

Additionally, caste-based notions of purity and pollution make the simple latrines used all over the developing world unattractive to rural Indians. In acontext where people identify most closely with their caste and religious groups rather than their geographical villages, our findings suggest that a more nuanced understanding of the idea of “community” is required. More experimentation, both with community-led and other strategies, is
needed in order to effectively move from open defecation to latrine use in rural India.

Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China’s rivers; big pharma must act

Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China’s rivers; big pharma must act. The Guardian, October 25, 2016.

Pollution from drugs factories, many in India and China, is causing the spread of anti-microbial resistance. Pharma companies are under pressure to act 


A strain of the E coli bacteria. Pollution from pharmaceutical production is a factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Illustration: Janice Carr/AP

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are a fundamental threat to global health, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon recently told a general assembly meeting. Failure to address the problem, he said, would make it “difficult if not impossible” to provide universal healthcare, “and it will put the sustainable development goals in jeopardy”.

For pharmaceutical companies the attention on antimicrobial resistance has also brought a focus on one of its key drivers: the unabated environmental pollution of drug factories in developing countries.

In India and China, where a large proportion of antibiotics are produced, the poorly regulated discharge of untreated wastewater into soils and rivers is causing the spread of antibiotic ingredients which cause bacteria to develop immunity to antibiotics, creating superbugs.

A study of wastewater factories in China found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not only escaping purification but also breeding. For every bacterium that entered one waste treatment plant, four or five antibiotic-resistant bacteria were released into the water system, tainting water, livestock and communities.

Read the complete article.

Use public money to fund Africa’s water and sewerage systems

Use public money to fund Africa’s water and sewerage systems. Mail & Guardian Africa, October 25, 2016.

Developed countries used government revenue rather than private funds to build infrastructure, so why not Africa?

African stakeholders have called for water supply and sanitation to be a priority at the next meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They want the November meeting of COP22 to integrate issues related to water supply and sanitation with the climate change agenda.


A refugee waits to collect water from a well at the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan on April 17 2013. (Andreea Campeanu, Reuters)

Some progress has been made on water and sanitation in the past 20 years. Under the millennium development goals, rates of access in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 20% for drinking water and 6% for sanitation between 1990 and 2015.

But far more needs to be done. Population growth means the number of people without access to drinking water increased from 265-million in 1990 to 316-million in 2015 and those without safe sanitation from 388-million to 692-million.

The sector is in dire need of extensive investment. Estimates vary slightly but, to achieve the millennium development goal targets, Africa would have to spend about $15-billion annually; current spending is about $3.6-billion.

To close the gap, there is support for greater private investment in water in developing countries. But the reality is that the financing gap in Africa can only be addressed viably and equitably with a major increase in public investment.

Read the complete article.

Emergence of community toilets as a public good: The sanitation work of Mahila Milan, NSDF and SPARC in India

Emergence of community toilets as a public good: The sanitation work of Mahila Milan, NSDF and SPARC in India, 2016. SHARE.

This report summarises SHARE-supported sanitation work in India. It outlines how a sanitation strategy was developed, and the execution of multi-decadal projects that have resulted in a number of cities renewing their commitment to invest in city-wide sanitation.


The e-waste mountains – in pictures

The e-waste mountains – in pictures. The Guardian, October 18 2016.

Sustainable development goal target 12.5 is to reduce waste. But with a planet increasingly dependent on technology, is that even possible?


As of today, over 30m tonnes of electronic waste has been thrown out so far this year, according to the World Counts. Most e-waste is sent to landfills in Asia and Africa where it is recycled by hand, exposing the people who do it to environmental hazards. Photograph: Kai Loeffelbein/laif

Kai Loeffelbein’s photographs of e-waste recycling in Guiyu, southern China show what happens to discarded computers.

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Science, Silver Bullets, and Sanitation: How Operational Research Improved Plan’s Global Programming

Science, Silver Bullets, and Sanitation: How Operational Research Improved Plan’s Global Programming. 

Plan International is a pioneer of the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach — a method that triggers community-wide behavior change on sanitation practices, ending open defecation, and stimulating household investment in toilets.

We tested, implemented, and evaluated the relative effect of different CLTS facilitation methods to examine how scalability and sustainability improved under alternate models. This comparison was coupled with “deep dive” evaluations in Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya, complemented by seven rapid evaluations worldwide to compare and contrast the findings.

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Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda

Community-generated data crucial for implementing New Urban Agenda. CitiScope, Oct 20 2016.

Good urban planning can’t happen without a better understanding of informal settlements, advocates say.

Earlier this year, when the Liberian government wanted to demolish informal housing in the West Point section of Monrovia, local community members had a strong argument to dissuade them.


West Point, Monrovia. (Nick Fraser/flickr/cc)

Thanks to a slum profiling initiative done the previous year through Shack/Slum Dwellers International, the community knew that many of West Point’s rudimentary, wooden toilets — so-called “hanging toilets” because of how they are built over the water — were located where the demolitions would take place. The toilets likely would get destroyed too.

Destroying the toilets, they argued, would pose a public health threat.

“That was where we came with our data and said ‘no’,” recalls Bill Jlateh Harris, of Shack/Slum Dwellers International, who lives in West Point. “If you take away [toilets] you expose us to open defecation and disease outbreaks. We appealed to them, using our documents, to stop the demolition exercise. It worked. Those structures are still there, in fact. They were not touched.”

The data community members collected in West Point includes information about the number of taps and toilets in the area, as well as population figures. It is available online through the “Know Your City” campaign, a data initiative from Shack/Slum Dwellers international that provides community-generated data from more than 7,700 communities in 224 cities.

Read the complete article.