The residents of Sudhamnagar, a slum community in Bangalore, made the big leap from defecating in the open until 2007 to having household latrines in 2009, proving that once people understand what they’re missing, they will find ways to get it.
Sudhamnagar comprises 300 households of mostly daily wage earners. For a long time residents had no access to safe water supply, no basic sanitation facility in their homes, limited educational opportunity for children, and very little hope for a better quality of life.
“Everything changed when AVAS [Association for Volunteer Action and Services] stepped in and helped us by constructing a community toilet,” says Josephine, a local resident and member of the WATSAN committee.
In a dialogue faciltated by AVAS, residents identified basic facilities like housing, water, sanitation, and electricity as their most urgent needs. The dialogue later branched out to wider grounds-from education to health to land tenure to livelihood.
After ensuring that the community had stable land rights, AVAS and the WATSAN Committee negotiated with the local government and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) for the installation of water connections and construction of public toilets.
The public toilets were so popular that frequent use led to maintenance and cleanliness problems. As a result residents began constructing household latrines with technical guidance from AVAS, a little financial assistance, and the support of the WATSAN Committees.
The community’s efforts easily demystify many myths about sanitation: that sanitation requires expensive and high-tech solutions, that the poor have more important needs than sanitation, or that governments and utilities do not have access to financing for sanitation.
“The poor are willing to pay if they have access to the service,” says Anita Reddy, AVAS’ Managing Trustee. “Accessibility, affordability, and participation in decision making are the critical ingredients that helped the residents change their lifelong habits,” she added.
See also: Water rights: access to water means access to education in the slums of Bangalore, India, Source South Asia, 19 Nov 2007
Contact: Association for Voluntary Action and Service (AVAS), No. 9, 5th Cross, Puttaiah Compound, Ashwath Nagar, Bangalore 560094, India, Ph: +91-80-23516227, Email: avas [at] vsnl.com
Source: Ma. Christina Dueñas, ADB, Feb 2009