Category Archives: Policy

Clean India Mission #SwacchBharat publishes new uniform definition of ODF


Swachh Bharat  website photo

The most important objective of the Swachh Bharat or Clean India Mission is to end open defecation forever in all  villages by 2 October 2019 – the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. But how can you monitor progress without an agreed indicator for an Open Defecation Free (ODF)  status?

Now, by issuing a  uniform definition of Open Defecation Free (ODF), the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, which runs Swachh Bharat, hopes to resolve the current unclarity.

In a letter dated 9 June 2015, addressed to all state secretaries of rural sanitation, the Ministry provides the following definition:

ODF is the termination of faecal-oral transmission, defined by a) no visible faeces found in the environment/village; and b) every household as well as public/community institutions using [a]  safe technology option for disposal of faeces.

{A] safe technology option means no contamination of surface soil, ground water or surface water; excreta inaccessible to flies or animals; no handling of fresh excreta; and freedom from odour and unsightly condition.

Read the full letter.

Source: PTI, Times of India, 14 Jun 2015


Recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation by UN Member States at the international level

Recognition human rights for WASH coverNew publication by Amnesty International and WASH United.

All UN Member States have recognised that the human right to water and the human right to sanitation are part of binding international human rights law.

This publication gathers the evidence of the universal recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation: it gives an overview of the most important resolutions and declarations that recognise the human rights to water and sanitation, including the positions that individual states have taken when those documents were adopted. For 77 countries, it also lists their individual positions and how these have changed over time.

The document has previously served as an internal reference guide for Amnesty International and WASH United. We are publishing it to help others identify the position that their country has taken on the human rights to water and sanitation, to advocate for the rights in their own national contexts, to ensure that these rights will not be ignored in the formulation and implementation of national water and sanitation laws and policy, and to help advance strategic litigation before national, regional and international justice mechanisms.

Gonzalez, C., Khalfan, A., Lande, L. van de, Neumeyer, H. and Scannellad, P., 2015. Recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation by UN Member States at the international level : an overview of resolutions and declarations
that recognise the human rights to water and sanitation. London, UK and Berlin, Germany: Amnesty International and WASH United. 124 p.

Available from WASH United website and Amnesty International website

Public Finance for WASH initiative launched


Today sees the launch of Public Finance for WASH, a research and advocacy initiative aiming to increase awareness of domestic public finance and its critical importance for water and sanitation provision in low-income countries. Check out our website

This is a collaborative initiative between IRC, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), and Trémolet Consulting. A key aim is to offer easy-to-read but rigorous information about domestic public finance solutions: our first three Finance Briefs are now available for download from our website, and over the coming year we will be building a comprehensive resource library.

And just to make sure we’re on the same page: what exactly is domestic public finance? Essentially, it’s money derived from domestic taxes, raised nationally (e.g. by the Kenyan government) or locally (e.g. by Nairobi’s municipal government). This money is going to be critical for achieving the water and sanitation SDGs: so how can we all work together to ensure that what we’re doing is supporting (not inhibiting) the development of effective public finance systems? And how can public finance be spent in ways that catalyse the development of dynamic markets for water and sanitation services?

To find out more, please check out the website. If you’d like to become involved in any way, get in touch!

From WASH to Environmental WASH: BRAC’s new strategy

BRAC LogoBRAC plans to expand its scope beyond WASH to water security and from rural to urban areas, as well as moving from service provider to facilitator.

The BRAC WASH Programme is rebranding. For 2016-2020 it will be renamed as the BRAC Environmental WASH Programme. This reflects the planned gradual expansion in scope beyond WASH towards water security and from rural areas towards low income small towns, urban areas and coastal areas. Specific areas of intervention include solid waste management at scale, faecal sludge management, water security and quality, enhanced secondary school programmes and alternative sanitation technologies at scale.

There will be a gradual shift in operating styles from direct service to facilitation, advocacy and joint implementation, learning and monitoring the impact of programmes. Operational partners will include Government at all levels, civil society, the private sector and other NGOs already operating in the same regions. Planning and budgeting will need to be flexible and adapted to specific regional needs, requiring on-going investment in staff and partners capacities.

The strategy builds on ten years of experience in large-scale rural WASH programming. Ongoing support to the rural population will continue and be enhanced, for example, dealing with the well-known challenge of sanitation in difficult hydrogeological settings, and will be integrated into other local BRAC programmes. Staffing will be reduced where earlier programmes have achieved their objectives and appear sustainable within existing institutional structures.

In terms of its financing, a mix is envisaged of grants, joint implementation of programmes with government and multi-lateral institutions and business models that apply market solutions to large scale change. Cost sharing and user payment in some activities will remain a feature of the programme. Direct BRAC support is being applied to programme development and piloting, for example, alternative water services in the coastal region.

Read the draft version of Strategy 2016 – 2020 BRAC Environmental WASH programme : everyone, everywhere, all the time.

See also IRC’s webpage on the BRAC WASH Programme.

The news item was orginally published on the IRC website on 16 January 2015

World Toilet Day: cities can’t wait

On World Toilet Day, IRC presents its ideas how to ‘systemically change sanitation in cities’. A new working paper marks one of the first steps in finding answers on how to reform a sanitation sector, which is failing a large part of the urban population.

Convergence of human and solid waste in a stormwater drain in Mumbai, India (Photo by Giacomo Galli/ IRC).

Convergence of human and solid waste in a stormwater drain in Mumbai, India (Photo by Giacomo Galli/ IRC).

While more people in cities have access to toilets than in villages, both wastewater and solid waste remains largely untreated. Take Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh: 99 percent of the population use toilets but according to Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) a staggering 98 percent of their waste is dumped untreated in the enviroment [1].

On World Toilet Day, IRC presents its ideas how to tackle sanitation in cities. A new working paper “Towards Systemic Change in Urban Sanitation“, marks one of the first steps in finding answers on how to reform a sanitation sector, which is failing a large part of the urban population. The problems in urban sanitation range from lack of facilities to lack of public funding and messy politics in urban governance.The root causes are systemic and technology alone is not the solution.

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India: Big push for small cities

By Prakhar Jain (email) and Aditya Bhol

The run-up to elect a new government brought sanitation to the fore of public conversation in India. Last month, Prime Minister Modi declared sanitation as a national priority, announcing ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, a sanitation programme dedicated to creating clean India by 2019 as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. Whether or not this plan succeeds may depend on whether it is simply a repackaged programme such as the ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan’ that was focused entirely on building toilets in rural India, or a renewed commitment to improve sanitation in both the rural and urban areas.  As India urbanizes, demand for effective and sustainable sanitation services will increase. India, with 11% of the world’s urban population currently, accounts for 46% of global urban open defecation [i]. While other developing countries like China, Vietnam, and Peru have already achieved open defecation free (ODF) status in urban areas, India still lags behind. The situation is particularly abysmal in small cities (population below a million) where close to 17% of the population defecates in the open as compared to 4% in large cities (population greater than a million) [ii]. The 2011 national census has shown that these small cities represent more than 91% of total urban open defecation in the country. If we are to catch up, the key is to immediately turn our attention towards small and medium-sized cities.

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Save the Date: April 11 Webcast from Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting


On April 11, the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership will hold its High Level Meeting 2014 in Washington, D.C. SWA is a global partnership of over 90 developing country governments, donors, civil society organizations and other development partners working together to catalyse political leadership and action, improve accountability and use scarce resources more effectively. Partners work towards a common vision of universal access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

Interested individuals can participate in the meeting virtually, in two ways. First, you can watch the live webcast from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time (18:00 – 20:30 GMT) on April 11 at this link Secondly, you can submit questions to panelists via a form found at the same link.

To find out more about the meeting, including the latest on commitments in water and sanitation from some 50 countries, visit

Below are some additional details about the meeting.

WHO:          Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General
                     Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group
                     H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, Chairman, Sanitation and                                           Water for All Partnership
                     Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF
                     Prof. Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of                                                 Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Republic of Kenya
                     Dr. Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist, World Bank
                     Hon. Sufian Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Ethiopia
                     Jan Eliasson, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General
Ministers of finance, development, water, health and sanitation                                     from 50 countries
International and national NGOs and development organizations

WHAT:          Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting (HLM) in conjunction with the 2014 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group

WHEN:       Friday,April 11, 2014 , 1400 – 1630  EST  (DC time)

WHERE:       World Bank Group, IFC Auditorium, 2121 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, DC

WHY:              1 in 3 people (2.5 billion) around the world still do not have access to safe sanitation, including 1 billion who must  defecate in the open. Almost 600,000 children under five died from diarrhoeal diseases, or about 1,600 per day, in 2012.   Three-quarters of a billion people do not have a source of improved drinking water and billions more use unsafe water. These, along with poor sanitation and hygiene, contribute to malnutrition and stunting in 165 million children globally.   Top economists agree that the return on investments in water and sanitation is 5 to 1. Two years ago, 48 countries made 415 commitments toward expanding access to safe water and sanitation. This year, countries will assess their progress and make new efforts to continue that momentum.