Discovering sanitation realities through rural immersions

Discovering sanitation realities through rural immersions. by Jamie Myers, CLTS, March 2017.

At the end of last year the CLTS Knowledge Hub heard that the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Indore, in collaboration with UNICEF and the Government of Madhya Pradesh, were sending 630 of their first year management students to spend a week living in 157 open defecation free (ODF) villages. clts

The villages cut across 13 districts in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. Students were asked to verify ODF status of villages through a household survey and early morning and evening inspections of open defecation sites. They were also tasked with collecting data on school and Anganwadi (child and mother care) centres sanitation and handwashing facilities.

The sheer number of people involved was impressive in itself as was the level of detail that could be collected in the length of time they were able to spend there. Furthermore, the fact that they would be staying overnight meant that they would be in the villages at the times when open defecation was most common, early in the morning and later in the evening. Needless to say we were excited to hear not only about their findings but also the process and methodology.

Read the complete article.


One response to “Discovering sanitation realities through rural immersions

  1. Marianathan Silvester

    The findings of the students of IIM in collaboration with UNICEF and similar findings by various others are obvious and are prevailing everywhere since the start of this millennium, is continuing and shall also continue with the present approach of Sanitation programs. We are only concentrating on various methodologies and enforcement systems to achieve after all the proxy results of ODF whether or not the programs enable any health results. There is a serious concern on whether we are really in focus to make Sanitation to be on its track. We have been spending such a lot of money and time and yet the fact is we are not able to ensure concretely that health improvement is effected due to the present of Sanitation projects.
    CLTS approach had been given over emphasis and CLTS has become the bible of Sanitation as accepted and practiced all over the world. But if you observe the actual results in the field surveys, about 95-98% of latrines built due to these CLTS programs are Open Pit Latrines. To use these latrines, one has to sit right over the nasty shit chaos lying beneath with shooting pungent smell and swamping flies swirling around and suffer the unbearable agony. These Pit Latrines are another worst form of Open Defecation making not only individual household more vulnerable but also the whole communities because they are brought nearer to the door steps. Thus, Health improvement and poverty alleviations are simply out of question with these projects. Moreover the ODF achievement by these programs is temporary results and not sustainable since it is always observed the people return back to OD soon as the enforcements by CLTS is lifted. The theory of Sanitation ladder is not happening in the communities for obvious reasons.
    The question is why we should cling on to an approach which is incapable of achieving any results and why we should continue to spend such a lot of money and time on it. If we closely and rationally look in to the problem, we may realize that CLTS concepts though apparently are mind blowing, it does not really fit in to the context to do anything with Open Defecation. Defecation is natural urge and no one needs to educate someone how to defecate. All normal human beings naturally have the sense to have privacy and security during defecation and this also does not require any education. If any normal human being is defecating in a vulnerable location, it is not that she or he is aware of, the reason really is that they don’t have other go-means they don’t have facilities for defecate properly. Hence if our aim is to prevent Open Defecation, then we must satisfy their necessities and this could be the right approach and not otherwise like CLTS instituting another kind of worst Open Defecation.
    All the same, it is important and very important that when we intend to satisfy their necessities, they should be a complete package of all their needs and affordability is as important. Whatever we are intending to satisfy should be capable of making Sanitation easier than practicing Open Defecation since practicing Open Defecation also involves lots of difficulties like walking long distance away, finding safe and privacy location, finding water for washing etc. Hence if we are able to provide such a solution, Sanitation shall move forward without any campaign and enforcement.
    Providing a free latrine or making the people to build one is not enough, we must also be able to provide them their other needs completely such as a solution to water needs for practicing Sanitation or a solution to empty their septic contentment when they are filled. We know in the traditional approach this is an impossible task and it is not necessarily we plunge in to short-cut approaches like CLTS and ruin the situation. There are other possible ways which are result oriented and sustainable. This require simple innovations and we adamantly never want to turn towards that side but only recklessly want to spend millions of Dollars knowing very well that it does no good to achieve the targeted results.
    It turns out what all we need are:
    1- An affordable, proper and easy to use toilet. This means the cost of the whole toilet should be cheaper than a pit latrine; the toilet should be free from smell, flies and pleasant to practice. Most importantly to make it easy to use, the toilet should not require buckets of water for flushing.
    2- A burden free septic tank. This septic system should not involve in looking for external assistance to empty them periodically. They must be scientifically designed to enable faster decomposing, volume reduction and automatic emptying.
    3- The production and supply of these toilet systems should be made available at the doorsteps of the population and in sufficient quantities (massive productivity) owing to unimaginably vast amount of population yet to be covered. Localized production or even mobile production may be planned to enable the supply chain.
    Calculations say that we need to accomplish one toilet per second to attain our results; it is such a serious and emergency situation. It is a big task but easy to achieve if rethink of our approaches as above. No one, including the international organizations seems to be realizing this, how can anyone encourage the heinous pit latrines in this modern world instead of banning and penalizing such constructions. If health improvement is the goal of Sanitation; we need to go with scientific and technological tools to achieve the targets. Many wonders on development is happening in the other fields, why not in Sanitation? We shall not be able to break the coconut just by enchanting mantras; we need proper tools to do it.
    We ourselves have been able to innovate such a toilet system. This system includes a toilet which has perfect seal, does not require flush water. This system goes with a lightweight U-tube septic which is capable of faster decomposing and automatic ejection of the same. Massive production and affordable cost comparable to pit latrines are ensured. We are a humble organization in a remote underdeveloped African country, we, as tiny organization, have been able to accomplish, the above innovative toilet system without any external support. There are many giant and mighty organizations and institutions that are capable of hundreds and thousands of such innovations, but why it is not happening? The answer could only be, either we are satisfied with CLTS, Pit Latrines and ODF or there is no responsibility to initiate, organize and orient to make such innovations and solutions to happen
    Marianathan Silvester

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