Tag Archives: India

Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why

Nearly a Billion People Still Defecate Outdoors. Here’s Why. Nat Geo Magazine, August 2017.

The problem isn’t just a lack of toilets—it’s a lack of toilets that people want to use. The result: millions of deaths and disease-stunted lives.

At 65, Moolchand, bandy-legged and white-haired, has no problem rising for his predawn hunts. In fact he revels in them.

“I hide along the lane with my flashlight,” he says in a low, excited voice, gesturing down the main road of Gaji Khedi village, in India’s Madhya Pradesh state. “And I look for people walking with a lota.”

At a community toilet complex in Safeda Basti, one of Delhi’s many slums, women wait their turn for the single functioning latrine—while covering their noses against the smell of feces left by someone who couldn’t wait. Many people skip the hassle of city-run facilities altogether and do their business in rubble-strewn lots.

At a community toilet complex in Safeda Basti, one of Delhi’s many slums, women wait their turn for the single functioning latrine—while covering their noses against the smell of feces left by someone who couldn’t wait. Many people skip the hassle of city-run facilities altogether and do their business in rubble-strewn lots.

A lota is a water container, traditionally made of brass but these days more often of plastic. Spied outdoors in the early morning, it all but screams that its owner is headed for a field or roadside to move his or her bowels—the water is for rinsing.

“I give chase,” Moolchand continues. “I blow my whistle, and I dump out their lota. Sometimes I take it away and burn it.” Moolchand sees himself as defending a hard-won honor: The district has declared his village “open defecation free.”

“People get angry and shout at me when I stop them,” he says. “But the government has given villagers lots of help to construct a toilet, so there is no excuse.”

Read the complete article.

Changing the village, changing the country – World Bank Water Blog

Changing the village, changing the country. World Bank Water Blog, June 27, 2017.

How do you persuade people to use a toilet? This is an urgent question across rural India: somewhere near half a billion people are still defecating in the open, and the Swachh Bharat Mission is urging them to stop by 2019.

India has about 650,000 villages. Many have tried different techniques – some successfully, some not. What if there were a “Google of sanitation”, where you could search for success stories of others who have faced the same situation, and a “LinkedIn of Sanitation” where you could reach out to peers with questions?

India’s government and the World Bank are together creating a platform for this, using systematic knowledge-sharing and learning as an approach to support the Swachh Bharat Mission and change behaviors. The approach is based on the belief that many excellent local sanitation solutions exist and can be replicated across the country.

Read the complete article.

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Pictures: Left: Ms Lunga Devi from Pawa, Pali is interviewed by Government officials in Rajasthan on how she became a natural leader on ODF in her village and helped it transform, as part of the ‘World Bank – Capturing Local Sanitation Solutions’ training. Right: Villagers from Muzzafarpur district in the State of Bihar talking about local sanitation solutions.

#InDeepShit

By Ingeborg Krukkert, Lead Asia Programmes | Sanitation and hygiene specialist, IRC

Human beings are being used to plug the gaps in failing sanitation systems – Bezwada Wilson.

#InDeepShit is the title of an event I attended on Saturday 22 April 2017. Talking about toilets and who is able to use one – or not; talking about who cleans them and how – sometimes literally with their hands deep in shit. I know this does not sound like an event a sane person would like to join on their day off. But you are mistaken! And I was not the only one. Around 80 young and critical people in the room showed that this was an event important enough to spend their free Saturday morning on.

I was triggered by the quote on the invitation saying: “Any human cannot clean somebody’s shit for the sake of roti. This is Independent India?”. The quote is from Bezwada Wilson, an Indian activist against manual scavenging. He was one of eight very interesting speakers invited to address the meeting. They covered a wide range of challenges: from barriers disabled people face when wanting to use a toilet (“we can’t hire you because we do not have a toilet for you”), to safety issues for transgender people (“we have progressive laws on paper, but this is not what I encounter in real life”), to accountability and manual scavenging.

Nine years

Almost nine years ago Bezwada Wilson was an inspiring and eloquent speaker at the IRC Symposium on Urban Sanitation for the Poor. Nine years and the same problems still need to be addressed. At that time he said: “sanitation is much broader than simply toilets. Effective sanitation also requires hygiene education – people have to change their practice as well as get access to toilets. It is inevitable that the main focus is on the early part of the chain (building toilets), but there is increasing awareness that the most difficult problems relate to the removal of faecal sludge […]. In many cities, treatment, disposal or reuse is not managed” and – as Bezwada Wilson put it so eloquently in his presentation during the symposium: “human beings are being used to plug the gaps in failing sanitation systems”.

Bezwada Wilson

Bezwada Wilson

Nine years later, this is exactly what is happening with the Swachh Bharat Mission. With the hard deadline of 2019 to reach the target of a toilet for every household, state and districts seem to have no choice but to focus on constructing toilets and on doing it fast. More than 700 million toilets to go…. There is no time to focus on use, no time to focus on what is happening with all that human waste after using the toilet, no focus on what happens when the pit is full, and no focus on who is emptying the toilet or how it is done.

Nine years of activism and there is still manual scavenging. Bezwada Wilson has not changed; he seems more motivated than ever. And with reason! It’s not only about dignity, safety is a huge issue too. Workers are dying, even in 2017, he points out referring to the recent sewage plant accident in Noida.

Chief Executive VK Madhavan from WaterAid India, however, also sees positive developments. He acknowledges that we cannot change where we are born, or in which family or caste. So true and yet so easy to forget: that privilege – or not – is no contribution of us as individuals, no contribution at all. What we can do is provide a space to those who are denied to speak up or to interact with the government. That is why WaterAid India together with Youth Ki Awaaz organised this event. Youth Ki Awaaz is India’s largest platform where young people can publish their stories to drive impact.

And this is what Bezwada Wilson has also done. He is founder and National Convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), a national movement committed to the total eradication of manual scavenging and the rehabilitation of all scavengers for dignified occupations. SKA was instrumental in eradicating manual scavenging in as many as 139 districts in India since 2009. He created a change of perspective. And he is not alone. Mrs Lali Bai, a former manual scavenger, also shared her experiences with us. She is now an activist and founder of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, a national campaign for dignity and eradication of manual scavenging. For a long time many of us, including government officials, ignored or even denied the existence of manual scavenging. But there are many examples that manual scavenging is still going on as this picture from Cambodia shows.

Manual scavenger in Cambodia (photo by Danny Dourng)

Manual scavenger in Cambodia (photo by Danny Dourng)

Any shortcuts to change?

In India more and more authorities start to acknowledge the problem. Our role is to provide space to make this happen. It all goes terribly slowly though and I asked the panel if there is no shortcut to change. Nobody could answer that question. Can you?

The blog was originally posted on 24 April 2017 on the IRC website.

Ghaziabad administration launches ‘Swachhtagrah’ app to monitor open defecation

Ghaziabad administration launches ‘Swachhtagrah’ app to monitor open defecation. Hindustan Times, April 13, 2017.

The Ghaziabad district administration on Thursday launched a mobile app to help officials locate areas where people defecate in the open. Volunteers and monitoring committees will now be able to send complaints and Google map locations of open defecation.

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Incidents of open defecation can be reported in the app.

According to officials, the ‘Swachhagrah’ app is available on the Google play store but its use will be restricted to use by volunteers and monitoring committee members registered with the district open defecation free (ODF) control room.

The officials aim to provide a total of 12,969 toilets by the end of April as part of the ODF programme. As many as 111 of 196 villages in the district are open defecation-free.

“Once we achieve the ODF status in all of our 196 villages, the app will help volunteers and monitoring committees to check if people are returning to old habits.

They, after providing their login and password, can send complaints and even the location through the app. The complaint will be displayed to all officials and also in the control room,” said Virendra Singh, district Panchayati Raj officer.

Read the complete article.

SHARE – Understanding Gendered Sanitation Vulnerabilities: A Study in Uttar Pradesh

Understanding Gendered Sanitation Vulnerabilities: A Study in Uttar Pradesh, 2017. SHARE Project.

The aim of this study was to understand rural women and girls’ age-specific experiences of using and accessing sanitation. The study focused on the accessibility of latrines and the conditions of sanitation experienced across age, religion, caste, etc. Share_Logo_MAIN_STRAP_RGB

The study objectives were informed by research indicating that women and girls have unique needs, and that these needs vary between urban and rural environments.

Specifically, we were interested in assessing the gender, caste, and age-specific experiences of SRPS that rural women and girls experience, and to suggest ways that SDG indicators and guidelines for Swachh Bharat Mission—Rural (SBM) in India might be adjusted to be more sensitive to the unique needs and stresses of rural women and girls without access to sanitation.

Ushering a new era in sanitation value chain management in India

Report of a WASH Dialogue on faecal sludge and septage management.

By Anupama Sahay

Cambodia faecal sudge management-crop

Faecal sludge management in Cambodia. Photo: Dany Dourng

Is Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) an effective and long-term solution in the sanitation value chain? That was the question that Indian sanitation experts reflected on in Jaipur, the state capital of Rajasthan, at a multi-stakeholder dialogue on ‘FSSM Matters: Looking Forward’ on 10 January 2017. The dialogue was the second of the “Insights” series launched last year by the India Sanitation Coalition (ISC), IRC and TARU Leading Edge.

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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 

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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.