Community-based approaches to tackle open defecation in rural India: Theory, evidence and policies

Community-based approaches to tackle open defecation in rural India: Theory, evidence and policies. Observer Research Foundation, December 2018.

Open defecation (OD), an age-old practice in India, impacts the health of individuals as well as their communities. To tackle the problem, the Government of India launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in 2014, aimed at making the country open-defecation free (ODF) by October 2019 by giving more attention to community-based approaches.

However, while such approaches have helped solve the sanitation riddle in many countries, curbing OD in India is much more complicated: the root of the problem is a combination of lack of sanitation infrastructure and deep-seated habits. So far, India’s sanitation policies have used the top-down approach, focusing on financial assistance for latrine construction.

While this is necessary, considering the social determinants at play, the emphasis must be on changing collective behaviour through participatory methods, a component that has been largely absent from past policies on sanitation.

Demand-driven approaches must be adopted, keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses and ensuring equity-focused actions through community-monitored, locally appropriate and culturally sensitive interventions.

2 responses to “Community-based approaches to tackle open defecation in rural India: Theory, evidence and policies

  1. Marianathan Silvester

    Achieving ODF is not our goal but achieving health results through proper and safe santation is our ultimate goal. The present multimillion sanitation programs in the name of CLTS are only trying to achieve fake results by promoting open pit latrines all over the communities. Nobody cares to realize the danger of the barbaric open pit latrines with swamping flies and fainting smell and nobody wants to realize this system is not sustainable.

    We should realize basic reasons that poor people are reluctunt to use the proper toilets because they need to fetch buckets of water to practice their daily sanitation and they have the worry to periodically scavenge and dispose their septics.

    What all we need is the technical solution to provide a care-free and safe toilet system which is affordable and pleasant to use. This alone shall yield a sustainable solution.

    Developing such a toilet systems is so EASIER than running around the bush with the CLTS programs.It is really mysterious why the projects are not opting them in the sanitation projects.

  2. Marianathan Silvester

    We can not achieve any health results and sustainable Sanitation results by forcing the people to build the barbaric pit latrines through CLTS campaigns. People shall have only aversion due to swamping flies and fainting odours with these pit latrines. It is a serious social injustice to sicken and ruin the lives of the poor people by these type of latrines.
    We must for heaven sake realize the reality-that people opt OD just because they need to fetch buckets of water to practice Sanitation which is rather hard for them than going for OD- the problem is that simple to understand.
    What all the poor people need is an affordable and care-free toilet system- a pleasant and non polluting toilet that does not require water and that does not require perodic scavenging.
    It is not difficult to find such a toilet system, I can suggest a few if anybody needs it. I think it is worth considering instead of wasting time on the useless multimillion CLTS capaigns.
    We don’t need to work on to achieve a forced behavioural change that shall never be sustainable, instead we need work on proper technical solutions that shall naturally change the behaviors of people.

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