Category Archives: South Asia

Death-trap toilets: the hidden dangers of Mumbai’s poorest slums

Death-trap toilets: the hidden dangers of Mumbai’s poorest slums. The Guardian, February 27, 2017.

Poorly-constructed toilet blocks have led to the deaths of seven people in three months, but politicians are yet to act on their promises for change 

mumbai

In Mumbai slums, 78% of community toilets lack water supply, 58% have no electricity and many don’t have proper doors. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

On the morning of 4 February, Harish Tikedar, Ganesh Soni, and Mohammed Isafil Ansari waited in a queue to use the community toilet in the Indira Nagar slum in eastern Mumbai. All of a sudden the floor collapsed, plunging Tikedar, Soni and Ansari into the septic tank 15-feet below.

Two others who also fell – Sirajjudin Turat and Ramakant Kanojia – managed to hold on to the sides until they were rescued.

“I was submerged up to my shoulders in the slush,” says Turat. “I could feel it pulling me down but somehow held on to a slab. Then some people pulled me up and I passed out.”

The five men who were pulled out were unrecognisable, covered in faeces. They were all taken to a nearby hospital but Tikedar, Soni and Ansari did not survive.

In Mumbai’s slums, the simple act of relieving oneself is fraught with danger, especially in the slums of M-East ward where population density is high, and the few public amenities are crumbling.

M-East is the poorest and most deficient in civic services of Mumbai’s 24 administrative wards. It has expanded over the last 15 years but has remained on the periphery of the city’s consciousness and governance systems. The differences between the civic amenities available in the smattering of middle-class apartment blocks and the slums, which dominate M-East, are stark.

Read the complete article.

Open Defecation vs. Community Toilets: A Complicated Choice – Global Waters

Open Defecation vs. Community Toilets: A Complicated Choice. Global Waters, February 6, 2017.

She told us all to just forget it. I didn’t catch her name, I just watched her adjust the microphone and stand on tiptoes at the podium. Her grey hair peeked out from behind and she sounded frustrated.

globalwaters

A poster showing good hand washing practices outside a community toilet in Delhi. Photo Credit: USAID/India

Forget the security. It won’t make a difference. Forget the caretakers and the cleaning supplies. We don’t need those. We just want sewer lines in our communities. That’s enough now. We want to use a toilet in our home.

The other women in the audience clearly agreed given the loud burst of applause when she mentioned sewer lines. Instead, she has a community toilet; that or the choice of squatting somewhere out in the open. Choosing between defecating in the open or using a community toilet is layered with far more complexities than I’d understood before.

My colleagues and I from USAID/India were spending the day at a workshop organized by our partner, Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence (CURE). They’re in the early stages of a behavior change communication study that will help us understand why, even with access to community toilets, open defecation is still happening. There were about 100 people living in five slums across Delhi who had given up their day to tell us.

Read the complete article.

Do it differently: Toilets are not enough to achieve sanitation, India must reinvent the waste business

Do it differently: Toilets are not enough to achieve sanitation, India must reinvent the waste business. by Sunita Narain, Times of India, February 11, 2017.

The most important programme of this government is Clean India – not just of corruption, but of the muck and filth that is taking over our rivers, our air and our cities.

But equally (and more) important is the agreement that this ‘cleaning’ up is not possible unless we can provide every Indian with toilets that work and toilets that are connected to systems that will safely dispose human excreta, to prevent further pollution of our environment and create another source of bad health.

This agenda is therefore, not just about building toilets but about building sanitation systems that are affordable by all. Only when growth is affordable and inclusive can it be sustainable.

But this is where the opportunity also lies in doing things differently. Till now, the paradigm for urban sanitation has been costly. It has been based on the idea that building toilets is enough to clean the country.

But the excreta sums of different cities, or what we call the city’s “shit-flow” diagram, shows that the situation is grim. Today’s cities do not treat or safely dispose the bulk of human excreta generated.

Read the complete article.

5 Offbeat Toilets India Should Adopt To Fight Sanitation Problems

5 Offbeat Toilets India Should Adopt To Fight Sanitation Problems. Swach India, February 2017.

In the era of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, issues like open defecation and human waste are getting attention from a large section of our society. Building public toilets that not only define innovation but are also user friendly and cost effective is the need of the hour. In our country 47 percent of people still defecate in the open, and these creative ideas can definitely fight this social problem.

Here is a list of 5 innovative toilets that India can adopt to address the problems of sanitation. 5offbeattoiletsindiashouldadopttofightsanitationproblems11

Solar Powered Urine Diversion (SPUD) Toilets: Having the qualities of affordability, and user-friendly, this toilet is 100% waterless and chemical-free and can be easily installed in rural parts of India. Highlight- Human waste turns into manure.

Portable Tent Toilets: It’s an earth friendly, convenient and portable solution to open defecation in slums. The waste is collected in a biodegradable bag that contains ‘ChemiSan,’ a material that helps to deodorize and decompose the waste. Highlight- Helps in saving water.

Read the complete article.

Changing behaviours: there is no quick fix!

Experts come up with better ways to promote sanitation in India.

india-school-toilets

School toilets, West Bengal, India, Photo: Stef Smits/India

India is home to the largest numbers of open defecators in the world. Over the last few decades the government has implemented national programmes, which attempted to address this complex challenge. The demand for sanitation, meaning a genuine demand for toilets and actual use, hasn’t been encouraging. In October 2014, the government launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), a national programme to eliminate open defecation by 2019. SBM has a rural (gramin) and an urban subcomponent.

Dialogue on behaviour change communication

On 23 September 2016, experts met in New Delhi to discuss how behaviour change communication (BCC) can best help to achieve India’s sanitation goals. They were invited by the India Sanitation Coalition, TARU and IRC to take part in “Insights: WASH Dialogues on Sanitation Promotion and Behavioural Science“.

When we set out to improve life for others without a fundamental understanding of their point of view and quality of experience, we do more harm than good (Lauren Reichelt, 2011)

Sector experts and experts involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives in sanitation, argued that it is crucial not just to look at how behaviour change interventions work, but also to understand what doesn’t work. There is general agreement that “soft interventions” are important at the community level to ensure that toilets are not just built but also used. Despite all the investments in sanitation over the years, little has been achieved in sanitation. There seems to be a gap between the planning of behaviour change communication interventions and how they are actually implemented.

Continue reading

Letter from India: How Poop is Becoming Big Business for Small Companies

Letter from India: How Poop is Becoming Big Business for Small Companies. by Devyani Singh, The Dialogue, January 27, 2017.

An excerpt: Small businesses can help governments and corporations build reliable value chains and introduce new services into local markets. They create employment in emerging markets, and increase access to goods and services that could potentially improve the lives of the underserved. toilet-696x387.jpg

Business solutions

A fascinating example of a business solution to the sanitation crisis in India is Samagra Sanitation. Founded in 2011 by Swapnil Chaturvedi, famously known as “Poop Guy,” Samagra is a small business working at the intersection of design, technology, and behavioral science, to tackle the issue of open defecation in 140 locations in Pune, India.

Samagra operates in urban slums and has so far built more than 300 toilet seats with more than 150,000 daily users, almost half of which are young girls and women. Samagra designs, manages, and renovates community toilet blocks in partnership with the municipality, which pays for maintenance and utilities like water and electricity. Each block is run by local women who act as Kiosk Managers (or “Loo-Preneurs”) and is regularly cleaned by Samagra’s “Cleaning Force.”

Slum dwellers can use Samagra toilets for free, but those who pay for usage get access to value added services or “LooRewards” such as mobile tops-ups, bill payments, banking, and health services. The cleaning staff also receives 100 percent of the revenue collected. In this way, the impact of Samagra goes beyond better sanitation to give women in these communities a means to earn a stable income.

Changing Perceptions

What is often missing from even the savviest of entrepreneurial efforts is a systematic process for conceptualizing a business model that replicates global best practices. Enviu, a developer of innovative social businesses from the Netherlands, is working to harness the power of business in India by co-creating impact businesses that can drive system-change. By leveraging the experience and knowledge of its network across the globe, Enviu works with local businesses to develop what it calls “bottom-up solutions”.

Read the complete article.

Unsafe Child Feces Disposal is Associated with Environmental Enteropathy and Impaired Growth

Unsafe Child Feces Disposal is Associated with Environmental Enteropathy and Impaired Growth.  Journal of Pediatrics, June 2016.

Authors: Christine Marie George, Lauren Oldja, Shwapon Biswas, et al.

Objective – To investigate the relationship between unsafe child feces disposal, environmental enteropathy, and impaired growth, we conducted a prospective cohort study of 216 young children in rural Bangladesh.

Study design – Using a prospective cohort study design in rural Bangladesh, unsafe child feces disposal, using the Joint Monitoring Program definition, was assessed using 5-hour structured observation by trained study personnel as well as caregiver reports. Anthropometric measurements were collected at baseline and at a 9-month follow-up. Stool was analyzed for fecal markers of environmental enteropathy: alpha-1-antitrypsin, myeloperoxidase, neopterin (combined to form an environmental enteropathy disease activity score), and calprotectin.

Findings – Among 216 households with young children, 84% had an unsafe child feces disposal event during structured observation and 75% had caregiver reported events. There was no significant difference in observed unsafe child feces disposal events for households with or without an improved sanitation option (82% vs 85%, P = .72) or by child’s age (P = .96). Children in households where caregivers reported unsafe child feces disposal had significantly higher environmental enteropathy scores (0.82-point difference, 95% CI 0.11-1.53), and significantly greater odds of being wasted (weight-for-height z score <2 SDs) (9% vs 0%, P = .024). In addition, children in households with observed unsafe feces disposal had significantly reduced change in weight-for-age z-score (0.34 [95% CI 0.68, 0.01] and weight-for-height z score (0.52 [95% CI 0.98, 0.06]).

Conclusion – Unsafe child feces disposal was significantly associated with environmental enteropathy and impaired growth in a pediatric population in rural Bangladesh. Interventions are needed to reduce this high-risk behavior to protect the health of susceptible pediatric populations