Sanitation innovator wins Stockholm Water Prize

Sulabh‘s founder, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, was recently named the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.  Sulabh has been working for decades to address sanitation, health, and hygiene in India and other countries.  Through inventive toilet designs, new biogas technologies, and his struggle for human rights, especially for those of the “untouchable” caste, Dr Pathak is recognized worldwide as an innovator and social reformer. A Business Standard article explains further:

The social reformer, who triggered the revolution against ‘sanitation crisis’, has been the main force behind changing social attitudes towards traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages and dense urban districts, and developed cost-effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people.

Dr Pathak will receive the award in Stockholm during World Water Week in August.

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IFC to loan $25 million to WaterHealth India for rural drinking water

Clean drinking water is in my opinion the most critical issue that must be addressed in any area suffering from poverty. So any news like this one gives me hope and a smile on my face. WaterHealth India has recently received a $25 million loan to install more than 600 water filtration systems throughout India. This issue cannot be understated as, 

[m]ore than 25 percent of India’s population does not have access to clean drinking water. Unsafe water is often the cause for waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. As more villages are included, the WaterHealth project will have important health benefits as well as help generate local employment and provide training, which could significantly improve earnings for people in rural areas. [Source: Sreelakshmi24’s Blog]

WaterHealth India has already installed 200 such systems in Andhra Pradesh and so hopefully their experience will result in a significant improvement to clean water access.

Keeping it simple…

The Clothes Bank is a network for collections, sorting, and distribution of clothes in different phases. The collection phase include house-to-house collections and installation of Cloth Drop Boxes in convenient public places including malls and banks. The Foundation also plans to involve a larger network of volunteers, including school-children in its collection drives. Clothes will then be sorted and distributed through a trusted network of partners.

An interesting evolution on an age-old charitable act. You can read the entire article here.

Access to Safe Drinking Water, the Sustainable Way

PepsiCo Foundation has awarded two grants, totaling $76 million, to sustainable water and sanitation efforts by WaterPartners and Safe Water Network. The PR release describes each program. WaterPartners will use the award to implement their WaterCredit program:

The WaterCredit program in India has two main components: first, to provide traditional grant funding directly to local non-government organizations to install pipes, faucets and storage cellars in impoverished communities, reaching some 60, 000 people. The second component is to establish a loan fund that will empower communities to expand access to safe water for an additional 60, 000 people over the course of the three-year project. This model produces a “multiplier effect” for impact based on a single source of funding and is the first time PepsiCo Foundation has applied micro finance as a strategic vehicle to advance water and sanitation improvements.

The idea of building community-based water supply projects through a combination of grants and loans is new to the water sector. Until now, nearly all water projects facilitated by other organizations have been funded entirely by grants, even when the individuals served by the project have the means to share costs.

Bridging microfinance and water is a topic that NextBillion.net covered earlier this year, so this is a connection that is working well in some regions and with the support of different organizations, such as ACCESS Development Services and Hindustan Unilever Limited. The vision behind this is that communities may not be able to afford methods that purify water and make it safe for drinking, but using microfinance models allows them to collectively take a loan and repay until they eventually purchase the system. Continue reading

Paid for Waste

In the town of Musiri, located in Tamil Nadu, the government has decided to compensate residents for using a new public toilet. The novelty of this effort does not stop there, as both the urine and feces of the people will be utilized for fertilizer research. Finally, by having the residents use the toilet, officials are better able to monitor for health of the residents if they appear to be using the bathroom too often.

Aid groups estimate that more than 330 million people in India do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. And in the case of Musiri, many residents relieve themselves on river banks, leading to infectious diseases such as diarrhea.

And while both governmental and non-governmental agencies have taken on projects to build toilets in rural areas, they also have had to undertake campaigns to encourage people to use them.

The Musiri plan seems to be working, [Marathi] Subburaman said. About 150 residents use the eco-sanitation toilet daily. It has special chambers that collect the fecal matter that researchers then use as fertilizer.

You can read the entire article here. [Source: Marginal Revolution]

Guest-Post: The Savior of Madurai’s Mentally-Ill

Editor’s Note: This article is contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of top accredited universities. She invites your questions and writing job opportunities at her personal email address.

Very rarely do we come across people who are genuinely interested in serving those less fortunate than themselves; and once in a while we stumble upon true social entrepreneurs like Krishnan, the one-man army whose battlefield is the dusty temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India. His mission – to see that the mentally-ill people who roam the streets of this bustling town never go hungry! From this quest emerged Akshaya Trust, an organization that has served over 650,000 meals since 2002 to the mentally-ill.

Six years ago, a promising career awaited this young man on the hills of Switzerland. Having completed a degree in catering and a training period at one of Bangalore’s finest restaurants. However, a chance encounter with an elderly destitute who was eating his own excreta in hunger made Krishnan rethink his goals in life. After helping the old man clean up and buying him some food, Krishnan went straight home and used his expertise and his mother’s kitchen to whip up some food which he then distributed to the mentally-ill people roaming the streets of Madurai.

Even in the face of stiff opposition from his parents, Krishnan’s enthusiasm did not waver and he was up at dawn every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year, making sure that no fellow human was forced to subsist off their own waste. Slowly, like soft water eroding a hard rock, Krishnan’s parents came around and accepted their son’s venture whole-heartedly. As word of this good Samaritan spread, volunteers joined in his efforts, and the Akshaya Trust was born.

Continue reading

Sanitation on Wheels – All Aboard!

Earlier this month, I attended the inaugural ceremony of the “Nandini Mobile Van” at the Safai Vidyalaya (Environmental Sanitation Institute (ESI)), Sughad, an organization which is considered a pioneer in the sanitation sector, largely due to the principled and passionate leadership of its founder, Ishwarbhai Patel (affectionately referred to as “Ishwarkaka”).

Before I elaborate further on Nandini, the “Sanitation and Health Van on Wheels,” a short storytelling session about Ishwarkaka’s extraordinary life and work is necessary, as he embodies the spirit of community-driven development. Ishwarkaka has dedicated his life to the cause of sanitation, from cleaning his own toilets (as well as those of others), to building 186,000 latrines throughout Gujarat. Even at a young age, Ishwarkaka was aware of the inequalities borne by caste and socio-economic status, and protested their very existence:

When I was ten years old I entered a school cleanliness competition and took a broom from my father’s house and began to sweep the street. Near the temple I spotted a much better broom and basket and decided to use them. Immediately, the local people starting yelling at me. They claimed it was an untouchables’ and a caste person should not be doing a cleaning job. I realized then something was wrong with our society.

In 1963, Ishwarkaka, with the financing of Gandhiji’s Harijan Sevak Sangh, established the first Sefai Vidyalaya next to the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad (to be followed much later by ESI Sughad). If you were to walk through ESI Sughad, you would see a toilet garden, elaborate sanitation posters, advanced water harvesting and preservation techniques, solar technology, composting pits, and highly advanced biogas units. Currently, the purpose of the Institute is to promote sanitation practices, namely through trainings for policy makers, engineers, sanitary inspectors, and masons from all parts of India

In an attempt to re-connect with their rural grassroots development origins, however, ESI recently launched a new initiative – the Nandini Mobile Van, a sanitation marvel on wheels. This custom-built, professionally designed van is slated to travel through rural Gujarat, stopping at villages along the way in order to build awareness regarding the linkages between sanitation and health. In order to deliver the message in a compelling manner, the van is equipped with media tools such as “visual presentations, songs, plays, and hands-on experiments demonstrating the consequences of ill hygiene and unsanitary habits.” Regardless of the medium used, however, the primary objective is to engage villagers in meaningful dialogue that catalyzes individual and community-based awareness, followed by behavioral change.

In addition to state-of-the art multimedia tools, the van comes equipped with sleeping accommodations and, of course, impeccable bath / toilet facilities in order to allow volunteers and staff members to comfortably travel from village to village.

Want to learn more?  Have further questions?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

[Ishwarkaka’s life story passages were retrieved from Arthur Bonner’s, “Averting the Apocalypse: Social Movements in India Today.”]