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.

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]

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.”]

Global Water Challenge Winners

I previously posted about voting in the Global Water Challenge – well, the winners are in, and all three are from India! (There must be something in the water there… ) The projects are highlighted below for their groundbreaking work in water and sanitation.

The water and environmental sanitation infrastructure in turn stimulates massive community investment in its own shelter. We have demonstrated that the `poor’ can, in conducive circumstances, mobilise huge resources, especially when coupled with constructive partnerships with the government and the private sector. This latent strength is tapped to remove aid dependency. The knock on impact on health, education and incomes is substantial and rapid.

  • Naandi Foundation: Their project uses a public-private partnership model that focuses on behavioral change, technology, and user fees to stimulate community buy-in.

Naandi Foundation has developed and is implementing a holistic model that recognizes that demand for quality water and sanitation services exists and that by capitalizing on communities’ willingness to pay, accountability can be enforced through a contractual relationship between service providers and the local government.

  • Swayam Shikshan Prayog: This work is based on grassroots and participatory mechanisms. Through capacity building of community members and working with local leadership, the organization is able to empower communities to enact change themselves.

SSP’s work follows a grassroots participatory development model, whereby grassroots rural communities, especially women, are mobilized and given tools to develop their own as Total Sanitation Communities.The innovation is in the approach which SSP takes to achieve the goal of ensuring safe and reliable access to water and safe sanitation standards for all.

Congratulations to all three winners for their innovative approaches to a pressing crisis.

TC-I Tidbits

Your daily dose of headlines:

  • International: The US government has put India on its ‘Priority Watch List’, along with nine other countries, saying that the country’s failure to protect Intellectual Property Rights is putting health, safety and jobs of its citizens at risk. [Source: Times of India]
  • Literacy: The Global Monitoring Report says that India has 35 per cent of the world’s illiterates, but at the same time, the country’s education development index has slightly increased.
  • Energy: Talks on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline started again as the country looks for more sources of energy.
  • Health: The government launched a public health website, which will provide information on water supply and sanitation, as well as allow visitors to contact the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation and allow cities and towns to update data.

Eco-Wise: Braving New Frontiers in Waste Management

Waste management is a significant challenge for India, specifically in urban areas, where the accumulation of trash leads to the prevalence of preventable diseases in poor, underprivileged populations. In order to address this issue, change is required on both a systemic and individual level, as the cause of the problem is rooted not only in lack of sanitation infrastructure / policies, but culturally accepted behavioral norms as well. In other words, not only do individuals not believe in maintaining the integrity of public spaces, but there is no formalized system in place to ensure that waste is collected and disposed of properly. Unfortunately, if there is no sense of personal responsibility, as well as no concept of proper trash disposal (neither the infrastructure to support this notion), how can we even begin to take the next necessary steps towards recycling and reuse?

As part of its “Climate Connections” series, NPR recently featured India’s first waste-recycling company, EcoWise Waste Management, the “leading provider of waste and environmental services” outside the Delhi area. To date, the company has achieved the following:

Headquartered in Noida, the company’s network of operations includes 15 collection operations, 2 transfer stations, 2 waste-to-compost plants and 5 recycling plants. These assets enable Eco Wise to offer a full range of environmental services to nearly 1.5 lac residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers. We collect and treat 40 tons of waste on a daily basis, which would otherwise be found lying on the roadside or make its way to the landfill site.

  1. Our activities diverted more than 2,400,000 tons of waste from ending up in land fill sites just last year
  2. With 80 manual rikshaws and 8 trucks running on bio-diesel we operate the cities largest fleet of clean vehicles
  3. Eco Wise is the only company in India that has its own waste segregation and treatment site.
  4. Our operations have permanently shut down more than 15 road side dumps in Noida.

The question, then, is this – if private actors are able to do (efficiently, cost-effectively, scalably) what government entities are supposed to do, how can the government capitalize on the insight of these entities? We’ve talked about PPPs on this site before, but what potential is there for these types of partnerships in the sanitation sector? (More after the break) Continue reading