Category Archives: South Asia

The surprising truth of open defecation in India – Sangita Vyas

Published on Jul 31, 2015

In this TEDx Talk Sangita Vyas shares the unheared and little understood reality of open defecation in India.

Its a well known fact that most of the open defecation in the world happens in India, social scientists and the government were struggling to understand why? Is it because we don’t have enough toilets? Is it because we don’t have enough money? The enormity of the problem was getting worse, 300,000 children lose their lives to preventable diseases related to sanitation and open defecation and most rural children face physical and mental stunting.

The answer as Sangita found in her country wide survey – is couter intuitive and very surprising. Listen to her talk to know the surprising truth of open defecation in India.

Sangita is broadly interested in the politics and economics of inequality and making services work in India.

She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received a BS from the University of Pennsylvania. After college, Sangita spent several years working in New York in economic consulting but soon became discontent and moved to India where she oversaw a randomized evaluation of a micro-insurance program for farmers in Gujarat with the Centre for Microfinance.

Sangita holds an MPA in Economics and Public Policy with a Concentration in Urban Policy from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. launches Water and Sanitation Challenge for India

Win US$ 250,000 for you idea on how to ensure that low-income households in India get water and sanitation services.



How can market-based approaches expand water and sanitation solutions among low-income households in India? This is the question that the Water and Sanitation Challenge seeks to answer.

The Challenge is an initiative of and OpenIDEO. It focusses on accelerating efforts that meet some specific criteria – such as developing local partnerships and having operations on the ground in India.  Top Ideas will be considered for approximately US$ 250,000 and mentorship from

For more information read the challenge brief at:

The deadline for idea submission is March 7th, 2016.

Voice of America – Millions Shun India’s Innovations in Solving Sanitation Problems

Millions Shun India’s Innovations in Solving Sanitation Problems | Source: Voice of America, Feb 18, 2016 |

In Geeta Colony, a crowded slum in the Indian capital, 45-year-old Meena Devi said she would rather walk into open areas in the vicinity of her tiny home for defecation than wait in snaking lines at the “filthy” community toilets. “The toilets are in terrible condition, there is no sewer system. Then they shut the doors at night,” she said.


FILE – Indian men attend to their morning chores next to a sewage canal before they leave for work early morning in New Delhi, India, Dec. 12, 2014.

Across Indian villages and towns, the government has accelerated a drive to build millions of toilets as it makes ending open defecation by an estimated 600 million people a rallying cry. Some 9 million toilets have been built since the campaign was launched a little over a year ago.

Shifting Social Norms

But sanitation experts say the campaign is faltering as many of the latrines lie unused. It is not just community toilets in festering urban slums that have discouraged people like Meena Devi from changing old habits. Tens of thousands of independent latrines built for village households are also shunned – mostly due to age-old cultural resistance to using them.

Read the complete article.


UN ESCAP – Demand for household sanitation: The case of India

Demand for household sanitation: The case of India, 2016. UN ESCAP.

Worldwide, India has the highest number of people defecating in the open. In an attempt to reduce number of open defecation, a supply side initiative is underway. In 2014-2015, Government of India, constructed 8 million toilets. However, an important aspect for this supply-side initiative to become successful is to create demand for toilets.

In this paper we look at household demand for toilets, and study the factors leading to open defecation. Using Demographic and Health Survey data we create a wealth index, and use it to rank household preference for toilets vis-à-vis 20 other different consumer durables.

Our results suggest, among lists of household items that any individual want to have, toilets get a lower preference – ranked 12, out of 21. Additionally, we examine preference structure for using toilets among residents from various federal states in India. We find residents of North Eastern states are more likely to use toilets.

We further investigate factors leading to toilet usage among households. Results indicate a strong case for imparting education and public awareness, especially, among the female cohort.

CARE/Bangladesh -Towards Total Sanitation


WSUP – Behavior change in Dhaka


UNICEF – Water, sanitation, and hygiene, champions in Afghanistan

Published on Jan 12, 2016

Zibulnissa, and Sedef, two female high school students from Afghanistan, attended in the first student-led conference on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in South Asia in 2015 in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.

The conference brought together students from South Asia to share their views on how they can improve the use of safe drinking water, clean toilets, and handwashing in their countries, and enable them to advocate for recommendations to be incorporated into government policy and agendas.