Water, sanitation and waste | Blogs

  • Thousands of students improve hygiene practices in Bangladesh


    August 25th, 2016

    Alamgir Chowdhury, Coordinator-Training, Energy & Urban Services Programme, Practical Action Bangladesh

    Nearly 70,000 students (Girls: 38,593 and Boys: 31,167)  in 6 sub-districts of Dhaka and Sylhet are enjoying good health and regularly attending classes.  The CATS (Community Approaches to Total Sanitation) project of UNICEF and Practical Action has helped to establish improved hygiene practices in those areas. Teachers and students are working together to bring changes to peoples’ ways of thinking.  People are now enjoying an open defecation free life leading to a healthier living environment and better public health.

    handwashing CAT projectUNICEF and Practical Action, Bangladesh have been working on the jointly designed CATS project since October 2014 in 500 communities and 200 schools in 34 unions of 6 sub districts of Dhaka and Sylhet. The aim of the project is to sustainably improve sanitation and promote hygiene behaviour change in these communities.

    Though most schools in those areas have access to water and sanitation facilities, over half these water sources were not working and many of the latrines were in poor sanitary condition and unusable. The project has rehabilitated or installed general hand washing facilities in the schools. It also rehabilitated or reconstructed existing sanitation, toilet and water facilities in the schools.

    In total the project established

    • 100 sanitation/toilet facilities
    • 200 hand washing corners
    • 70 menstrual hygiene corners

    Teachers and students have been involved in different learning programmes, workshops, and idea exchanges. This participatory approach led to the School Led Total Sanitation approach, which has increased demand for appropriate and well maintained, sustainable facilities and the scaling-up of the mass hand washing activities among the users.

    raising awareness This also incorporated another approach, Fit for School, which focuses on sanitation facilities according to the individual needs of each school.  Key messages of good practice have been spread through School Brigades and Councils, which are very effective in promoting school level sanitation programmes. School brigades are responsible for hygiene monitoring in schools and also participate in district and national level sanitation and hygiene competitions in the form of debates, drawings, poems and songs.

    Teachers have facilitated one hygiene session each week for students along with their regular curriculum. Students have also participated in a popular hygiene role-play called Robi-Rani. Teachers also encourage students to participate and observe Sanitation Month, World Water Day, World Environment Day and Menstrual Day which focus on the importance of improved hygiene practice.

    These initiatives have improved hand washing and toilet use practice among students. Other personal hygiene practices like nail cutting, hair combing, and tooth brushing and menstrual hygiene management for adolescent girls have been developed among the students. The school management committee members and teachers have developed a mechanism with student’s brigades for the operation and maintenance of wash facilities for proper monitoring and sustainability. The result is remarkable. Student absence rates have dropped significantly as students rarely suffer from water borne diseases like, dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera and various skin infections.  Regular attendance has improved students overall performance.

    The project has initiated different types of training sessions and events for school awareness. Examples include training of trainers on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practice and the operation and maintenance of sanitation facilities for teachers, students and school council members. The project team have also organised student council meetings and facilitated an action plan on WASH with students, and assisted the schools with relevant materials.

    The student council use a weekly assembly to increase knowledge and practice of hand washing before and after meals, monitoring the progress of using latrine hygienically and hand washing after toilet use. The student brigades now regularly monitor hand washing practice in schools, look after the hygiene  of the toilets.  The student brigades, teachers and SMC members have also facilitated hand washing activities in the schools on different occasions for sustaining hand washing practice among the students.

    There have been several programmes on “the effect of ODF and Hand Washing”. Six debate competitions were organised and several art competitions to inspire the students on the long-term effects of total school led sanitation. Representatives from district administration, the primary education department and the school authorities attended these programmes to encourage students. These activities have encouraged other schools in the adjacent areas to improve sanitation and hygiene practices among the school students and communities.

    The CATS project has changed the lives of thousands of students of these two hundred schools in Bangladesh. The project has proved that improved hygiene practice is directly related to increased school attendance and better performance by the students. Although most of the students of these schools belong to poorer families in the communities, the school led total sanitation approach has not only changed the students’ hygiene behaviour but is also reflected in the overall improved hygiene practices of these communities.

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  • Innovative online monitoring of WASH in Bangladesh


    July 28th, 2016

    If you are busy in the office, travelling, at home or wherever you are in the world you can watch great achievements! In a remote area of Bangladesh just 5 seconds ago a female leader put an update online with GPS location and engaging photographs about a hand washing device installed this morning. This is not a dream. In the cloud we are regularly updating the progress of the field activities of  the Community Approaches to Total Sanitation Project, (GoB-UNICEF-CATS ) part of the Energy and Urban Services Programme of Practical Action, Bangladesh.

    online monitoringThe online monitoring system using a smart phone app and a dashboard has made the monitoring activities on WASH in the project areas of Bangladesh much easier. Manually operated monitoring systems were time consuming, and a burden for project staff. They used to be burdened with questionnaires, writing materials, cameras, GPS machine, internet modem and computer or laptop. Data entry from hard copy to computer and sometimes hard disk was painful. With online monitoring the monitors just carry an Android mobile and everything else is in the cloud (on a satellite or server).

    More than 210 representatives of different stakeholder groups were trained on mobile based online monitoring by Practical Action. These included government departments concerned with public health engineering, and education, sub-district administration, local elected representatives, male and female community representatives and partner NGO staff.  They learned how to operate the mobile apps for the online monitoring process in project areas as well as the reporting system. Following the training they formed a Joint Monitoring Team at Union and sub-district level and immediately started monitoring in the 500 communities of 34 Unions in 6 sub-districts of Dhaka and Sylhet Division.

    The Union teams conducted household and community level monitoring and the sub-district level teams verified the monitoring data with field visits and checked data on the online dashboard. 1500 heads of household (randomly selected from the 500 communities) responded to the household level result monitoring and more than 7,000 representatives from the communities participated in community level monitoring. All the data was collected through apps and sent from the field using Android mobile.

    The data focused on four indicators:

    1. New latrine installations
    2. Un-improved to improved latrine
    3. Hand washing device installation
    4. ODF (Open Defecation Free) declaration and certification.

    Those engaged in online monitoring had not previously used Android mobiles before this training.   Now they are successfully performing online monitoring as a result of this high quality hands on training. The community welcomed the online system because they already depend on mobile phone based services to exchanges messages, transfer money, and pay mobile phone, gas and electric bills.

    The implementation of this system was not completely challenge free. In some areas It was difficult to engage government staff because they were busy with administrative work and post-election activities. And in some remote areas the phone network was poor and it was necessary to spend additional time sending monitoring data from the field areas.

    What is remarkable is that in this initiative a large number of people can now operate mobile online monitoring when most are representatives of the stakeholders, including direct project beneficiaries. This will contribute to the sustainability of the project achievements and add value to our WASH work.

    The project has received support from the Government of Bangladesh, UKAID and UNICEF.  Practical Action, Bangladesh have been implementing this project with field programme support of local NGOs UST, SPACE, CDS and OMUS.

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  • Technology changing lives – Transformation of Surajpur, Gulariya from abysmal to a model village

    Prabin Gurung

    July 25th, 2016

    Jai Bageshwori is a small village located in Surajpur-11, Gulariya consisting of 24 households. Majority of the people were relocated during the Maoist insurgency period. Mr. and Mrs. Rana are one of them who were displaced from Jajarkot. Mr. Pabitra Rana recalls, “during the insurgency period, we didn’t have any options but to join the Maoist. I had my mom, dad and my little boy who was only 3 years old then, so for their security reason also I had to join the Maoist.” Mr. Pabitra Rana and his wife Mrs. Gita Rana served the Maoist army for 4 years. He shared many gruesome stories which were beyond my imagination. Later he suffered from chronic gastritis and mental stress; therefore, decided to abscond along with his wife and took refuge in India. On 21 November 2006, a peace agreement was signed between Nepal government and the Maoist, which was six months after the Rana couple had fled Nepal. “It was really painful to drift apart from the family, there was not a single day I didn’t think of them. The day I found about the peace agreement I decided that was it, so packed my bags and came back to Nepal,” says Mr. Rana with a tear in his voice. Mr. Rana worked as a laborer in one of the companies in India and had saved some money. So, instead of going back to Jajarkot, he decided to start a new life from the money he had saved. He bought a small piece of land in Jai Bageshowri and built a one bed room house and decided to call it home.

    Mr. Pabitra Rana & Mrs. Gita Rana

    Mr. Pabitra Rana & Mrs. Gita Rana

    A decade long people’s war has definitely affected Nepal in one way or the other, be it in terms of economic development or poverty alleviation, it is still struggling to overcome the effects of the war. The people’s war claimed more than 18,000 lives and displaced more than 100,000 people. Nevertheless, after the peace agreement in 2006, progress has been made, yet the challenges still persist.

    It was not a fairy tale start for the Rana couple. The entire village had only one toilet, as a matter of fact it was rarely used. People used to defecate outside in open spaces or behind the bushes. The water from the boring contained arsenic which was poisonous, they did not have any purification system. Just across from the street was a jungle separated by a canal which belonged to the Indian side. They feared for their life from wild animals. Life was just terrible.

    Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity on August 2014
    In 2010, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO) launched SWASTHA project, an awareness program on water, air, sanitation and hygiene in Surajpur Village Development Committee (VDC). The objective of the project was to contribute to sustainable improvement in health and wellbeing of vulnerable population. Right after SWASTHA project phased out, Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity. On 13 August 2014, Surajpur VDC was flooded by the swelling Babai River which wiped out the entire community. It added more misery to the miserable community of Surajpur VDC. The newly built toilets, latrines, smoke hood and filter for drinking water were all wiped out; the only thing left was utter chaos. Homesteads, crops and livestock were washed away leaving people in distress.

    SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality
    Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is one of the essential ingredients of human health. It has an adverse effect on food security and livelihoods of people. According to the UN report, every year millions of people, most of them children die due to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. In Nepal alone, more than 10,000 children die annually from inadequate water supply and water borne diseases. Nepal is ranked the lowest in South Asian Countries in terms of water and sanitation. With an objective to achieve sustainable Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015, focusing on coverage of sanitation facilities, enhancing the capacity of local stakeholders and introducing innovative solutions in sanitation; such as and/or disaster resilient sanitation facilities, faecal sludge management and healthy communities, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality, Bardia district by Practical Action and ENPHO the same year.

    Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community” on 12 April 2016
    Easier said than done. It needs relentless effort to make such a change where open defecation has been practiced for generations. Mr. Dev Dutta Bhatta, Program Manager of Practical Action says, “Awareness is the key to change. It is a gradual process, where one needs to be educated regarding water and sanitation.” Self-awareness comes from self-knowledge. An inner urge needs to be felt to embrace the change. Ones attitudes, habits, beliefs, norms and cultures may subvert the behavioral change. Therefore, educating on safe drinking water, better sanitation, personal hygiene, proper kitchen and solid waste management were the key components of SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project in achieving its goal. Several street dramas, mass rally, awareness programs were also organised to educate the community.

    Surajpur VDC being declared a "healthy community"

    Surajpur VDC being declared a “healthy community” on 12 April 2016

    In a short span of time, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was successful in overturning Surajpur VDC from abysmal to a model village. On 12 April 2016, Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community.” “Before we used to drink water straight from the tap; now, we drink water only after it’s been purified, it even tastes better,” chuckles Mr. Rana. He further adds, “I hardly have upset stomach, loose motion or fever these days, wish I had known about this much sooner.” Mr. Rana is one of the first ones to have a toilet built and water filter installed in the community. After knowing about the benefits of having a proper hygiene and sanitation, he acted as a mediator in convincing the people of his community to vouch for toilet, safe drinking water, kitchen and solid waste management.

    Likewise, Dipendra Nagar and Kothiya were also declared healthy community on 02 February 2016 and 20 May 2016 respectively. Three more VDCs are on the verge of being declared a Healthy Community. Gulariya Municipality is an exemplary for other municipalities to follow. After being declared Open Defecation Free on 25 May 2015, now the Gulariya Municipality is aiming towards achieving the “Healthy Community” status. The credit goes out to each and every member of the community; especially Mr. Rana, who is also a secretary of the user-community group for his persistent effort convincing every single member of the community towards building a healthy community. If we have someone like Mr. Rana in each VDCs, it won’t be long until the entire Gulariya Municipality is declared “Healthy Community”. Furthermore, it will definitely help achieve the national target on sanitation- Universal access to sanitation by 2017. While the role of the government is vital, people have equally important roles to play for better results and sustainability.

    Technology Justice
    A simple technology in the form of pit latrine or bio-sand filter can change people’s lives. A village where open defecation was practiced not long ago has been declared “Open Defecation Free,” and the community now has access to safe drinking water. For me this is technology justice and I salute the innovator of such technologies. Not only should the technologies reach the privileged and elite class but also to the poor and marginalised groups. Therefore, I think it is time for you, me and us to rethink about the innovation in technology. Let the justice prevail.

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  • Clean water and toilets for Nakuru school

    Elizabeth Dunn

    July 20th, 2016

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of a school in Nakuru, Kenya. He has worked there since 2012 and has worked with Practical Action and the Umande Trust to improve access to clean water, toilets and hygiene training for his 765 students.

    The students come from the nearby slums and Jack explains their home life as ‘difficult’. Most have little or no access to clean water and decent sanitation at home so it is important to Jack and his staff that the children do not have to worry about going to the toilet and can drink clean, safe water when they’re at school.

    Jack knows that having no access to water and sanitation at school affects attendance and he was determined to change this.

    Jack Owino Nukuru

    “In 2012, it was bad. We had one block of boys toilets and one block for girls. They were in a bad state. We now have two blocks each. Before, children had to run back home to go to the toilet, in the bush. They would run home and never come back. 

    “Bad sanitation at home meant that children were sick a lot. We now monitor their cleanliness. Water at home is contaminated but they are safe here. They are encouraged to go back to their communities and pass on their knowledge. They are agents of change.” 

    Water and sanitation is absolutely vital to keeping children in school and it has been amazing to see the change in the students at Jack’s school, they are happier, healthier and many are now going on to further education.

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  • 500 communities motivated to become open defecation free

    Dipok Chandra Roy

    June 23rd, 2016

    Bangladesh has reduced open defecation (OD) to 1%. But this ratio is not the same in some of the hard-to-reach and rural areas. A significant number of the population still practices open defecation, in some area this is as high as 24%. Gowainghat, a beautiful riverside sub-district in Sylhet is one such area struggling to achieve OD free status (DHS, 2012). Practical Action, Bangladesh have taken an initiative to stop OD in some these areas only through self-motivation of the community people.

    Community approaches to total sanitation (CATS) in Dhaka and Sylhet

    UNICEF and Practical Action, Bangladesh have a jointly designed project, Community Approaches to Total Sanitation- CATS, which commenced in October 2014 in 34 unions of 6 sub districts in Dhaka and Sylhet Divisions.

    CLTS Dhaka and SylhetThe project’s aim is to sustainably improve sanitation and hygiene behavioural change in 500 communities through applying the CATS approach in close coordination with local government. Major tasks include capacity building of stakeholders including natural leaders, district authorities and water and sanitation committees.  In addition we have been linking local sanitation entrepreneurs with microfinance institutions, the department of health, and department of public health and engineering (DPHE) and raising awareness to generate demand in the population.

    Through the CATS approach, the project has declared 500 communities Open Defecation Free (ODF) by March 2016 and received certificates from respective Unions and DPHE. The certification process included, three inspection visits to the community by a certification team, who observed improved sanitation and behaviour change achieved by the communities themselves. The team confirmed and certified a community’s ODF status with sustainable visible changes including behaviours and by reviewing the community’s action plan documents.

    CLTS Dhaka and SylhetCommunities have installed around 22,000 new toilets and 23,000 unimproved/ improved toilets through motivation alone, leveraging local resources and establishing linkages with local sanitation entrepreneurs and microfinance institutions.

    As a result, more than 300,000 people now live in an open defecation free environment and benefit from better health and hygiene that will change their lives and livelihoods forever.

    Project sustainability

    A strategy was developed to hand over this approach to stakeholders such as local change agents, health staff, DPHE and WatSan committees based in the community at all levels.  A participatory online monitoring mechanism is being used by these stakeholders along with training on a mobile based online monitoring system to carry forward the motivational task after the project ends. Knowledge materials and other information on CATS approach (hard and soft copies) have been developed at the local level by both formal and informal institutions for easy access of the communities, individual users, development practitioners and researchers. The improved and healthy sanitation practices of these communities have already been copied in adjacent communities by self-motivation to improve their sanitation situation.

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  • A road trip to Gujrana

    Archana Gurung

    June 14th, 2016

    February’s beautiful few days kept me in the mid-west Terai. This part of Nepal is filled with the unusual beauty and especially Gulariya of Bardiya is at nature’s special rank. The sun’s radiance and crops spreading far and wide feed your eyes with a greenish-yellowish colour symphony, red-silk cotton trees catching up with you every next minute, give pleasure to the mind and heart. Gulariya holds unique flora and fauna; it is widely known for the Krishnasars (black bucks).

    A view of setting sun from Gujrana, Gulariya.

    A view of setting sun from Gujrana, Gulariya.

    Gulariya is a cluster of diversity and has a unique indigenous way of life. With so much of nature’s generosity and cultural wealth, this place is a heaven on earth. But nature and culture’s lushness do not always make a land fortunate. Many reasons including illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, poverty, natural hazards such as flooding, among others have been a barrier to development in many parts of Gulariya. However, many parts are moving ahead too.  While on a field trip, I spent some time in this beautiful village named Gujrana, a settlement of Gujars, a Nepalese ethnic/minority Muslim community.

    After a 30 minutes drive on the highway from the main town, our course diverted to an unpaved road. We drove off leaving billows of dust behind us. I looked back at the billows and contemplated how this short dusty ride made quite a big difference to the Gujars. The road we were driving over was a long awaited one for the Gujars  and ‘WE’ walked shoulder to shoulder with them to bring the road to their village. I was proud to be driving on the road which finally connected the village to a brighter future.

    Road that brought sigh

    Road to Gujrana

    Road to Gujrana

    Upon arrival at Gujrana, the village’s warmth gave us a big hug. Unlike other poor communities, Gujrana has a different personality. A neat, tidy and well managed little village, Gujrana also has an abundance of nature’s beauty. The people I met there had stories to tell about the road. Some shared the road linked them to higher education, some were just happy because access to hospital was easier, some said the road just pulled markets nearer, and the others were grateful that life essential infrastructures and services were now within their reach.

    Gujar community

    Beautiful Gujar community

    The first ambulance entered the village only in 2015 and this very road took it there. Before last year, it gave the villagers distress to have their lives at risk because an ambulance could not cross the mere 800 metres of distance. Many shared experience of rushing patients on bamboo made stretchers over muddy trails until they met the main road where ambulances waited.

    Less than one kilometer of distance and the entire village had been pushed back by half a century. Gujrana’s facelift is mainly attributed to the road. It is not black-topped yet but is wide and well maintained. Thanks to the financial support of UK government’s UK Aid match fund through DFID, Practical Action could reach to the Gujars with Safa & Gulariya project and as part of the project, the idea of Community Action Plan (CAP) came to the Gujars which remained instrumental in bringing the road to them.

     

    Bright and curious Gujar children like being photographed

    School time…

    The whole time at Gujrana, I was surrounded by bright children inquisitive about the camera I was using. They mostly responded by big smiles but their inquisitiveness and curiosity allowed me to anticipate their bright futures.

    The Gujar children went to school by walking few hundred metres from home. Before the road was there, the monsoons were way too hard on them. The muddy and slippery trails led to regular absence of school-goers. Many children would get back home with cuts after tripping and some were badly injured too. In poor communities like Gujrana, only light of hope for the children’s bright future is their education and failure to attend schools can hamper them from what they can be. A few children timidly said me they don’t miss schools anymore because the way to school is ‘walkable’.

    Better road is better economy and better life

    The road helps transport the produces to the market easily

    The road helps transport produce to the market easily

    Tractors can finally reach the fields of Gujars now. The road has brought technology in the farmers’ backyards directly showing results in their yields. The labour involved in agriculture has dropped tenfold and harvests have increased. Most importantly, they can now easily get their produce to the nearby markets loading on ox carts, horse carts and tractors, even in the monsoon. Selling their produce takes less efforts and they have been able to make good savings. All thanks to the newly arrived road; many Gujars’ living standards have gone up.

    What’s CAP all about?

    Government of Nepal (GoN) has a provision of accepting community-led proposals for their local development as part of 14 step planning process under Local Governance and Community Development Programme (LGCD). The municipalities and Village Development Committees (VDCs) accept a participatory plan of action from different communities. This Community Action Plan (CAP) involves the community people directly in selection of community problem, prioratisation of them and proposal to the locally based governance body, VDC or municipality offices. However, most of the poor and marginalised communities commonly remain unaware of many provisions and services introduced by the government due to many gaps; gap in education, gap in information, gap in knowledge, among others. CAP’s provision is also unknown to many. Many times, merely knowing about CAP is also not about everything; there needs to be capacity to develop CAP. Gap in such capacity is also hurdle to many small developments communities themselves can lead.

    Using various instruments like: social map, seasonal calendar, situation analysis, problem tree analysis Practical Action with partner Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) involved the Gujars in rapid CAP developing exercises. At initial stages, it was bit of a challenge to teach Gujars such serious proposition. But our social mobilisers did all it takes to simplify everything using local resources as metaphors drawing maps in the mud, creating different games and showing dramas in the local dialect, communicating more and more ̶ door to door and at a personal level, among many more techniques.

    This road is a step towards Gujrana's brighter future

    This road is a step towards Gujrana’s brighter future

    The CAP approach actively involved the villagers in preparing an inclusive and priority based plan of action. It played a crucial role in unique team building, identification of village needs, preparing plan of action and dragging municipality’s attention to address them. Team building bound the Gujars and adjoining village dwellers in a thread of unity to jointly work in bringing road to their doorsteps. Besides Gujrana, the intervention has enhanced capacities of 10 communities of Gulariya Municipality in participatory planning and has helped them develop their Community Action Plans (CAP).

    A GREAT BEGINING

    It’s really interesting how developing simple skills can bring such significant change in their lives. While harnessing my Gujrana understanding, I caught a moment to speak to its Chairperson, Nokhe Gujar. Responding to my query about how he felt about the change in his village, he expressed his views.

    Gujrana community chair shares us experience of being without road

    “The change has brought the village out of captivity of backwardness. We felt imprisoned without a road. Our children missed schools and we ourselves had difficult time to sell our produces in the market. CAP has helped us understand our needs and get the municipality address them. Nowadays, we sit for regular meetings to discuss our problems and we make strategies to solve them. We develop our priorities and design CAP on our own. Even in future we will be able to plan our development on our own.”

    Over a year’s rigorous teaming up with Gujars and they were able to get themselves a road.  However, it does not end right here on the road. It’s just a stepping stone and is a great beginning. With that capacity, they can shape further community level developments themselves in future. And if other parts of Gulariya repeat the experience, the facelift of entire Gulariya is certain. With the nature’s abundance and rich cultural heritage that Gulariya holds; people participated development can open many doors of opportunities for the Gulariya and its people.

    Someone rightly said, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime!

    Children can finally cycle without hassle

    Children can finally cycle without hassle

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  • How should we approach faecal sludge management?

    Birupakshya Dixit

    June 8th, 2016

    Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) being the need of the hour, planners and policy makers must invest time and energy in research. As this is completely new to India and yet to develop a market and demand, I got an opportunity to visit Indah Water Konsortium, Malaysia to see their faecal sludge and sewage treatment sites.

    INDAH WATER KONSORTIUM SDN BHD (IWK) is the national sewerage company wholly-owned by Minister of Finance Incorporated and operates as a private company under the Company’s Act. It is responsible for providing sewerage services, operating and maintaining over 5,750 public sewage treatment plants and 13,000km networks of sewerage pipelines since April 1994 when it was awarded a concession to provide nationwide sewerage services. It is also entrusted with desludging over 1 million septic tanks and managing the sludge that is generated.

    Oxidation Pond

    Oxidation Pond

    They have a mixture of modern as well as early age technologies and are planning to replace all the old technologies with modern mechanical systems over the next few years. Along with some of their senior staff I visited Mechanical Dewatering Unit, Sludge Drying Bed, Trenching site, Geo tubes, Imhoff Tank, Aerated Lagoon, CSTP and SBR. Being a non-technical person, I won’t go into the details but rather, highlight the learning and outcomes that every planner in India trying out FSM should keep in mind.

    Highly mechanized equipment is the standard feature of most of the treatment sites at present.  There are several logical reasons for going for mechanical treatment plants, however one important reason is such plants do not require much land. Usually the land costs are very high in Malaysia. But one needs to accept that mechanical plants really need technically competent people to manage, operate and maintain them.

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    Imhoff Tank

    The energy in form of electricity they use is huge. I learned that 40% of the treatment unit’s expenditure is on electricity. This adversely affects the business model of FSM. I also visited Imhoff Tanks which are a zero energy based treatment technology. However as the mechanical units have many advantages over older technologies they have to go for these. In this context, solar or green energy could be used to increase sustainability and make it an economic business model.

    Initially IWK had not taken into consideration the use of end products like the dried sludge and the treated water. Now they are facing problems disposing of the dried sludge though they are able to release the treated water to the river and have started reusing the treated water in few of their offices. I was told that given a chance to begin again they would start with proper planning for the reuse of the end product. In such a scenario it’s very important to plan out the disposal of all the output. Reuse for something meaningful is something the planners must look at. In our projects in India, we are looking at using sludge as manure and there are other possibilities as well. But to a great extent the prior planning of reusing treated sludge or waste water is something which will change the fate of the FSM plan.

    The fixed tariff for providing treatment services did not increase at a rational rate over the years. The government could not increase the cost because of the fear that people might not react positively.  So the company faced a severe loss. However, the government decided to take over responsibility and took over the company, originally started as private company. This means the government decided to subsidize the whole business for political reasons, which creates an important question as to whether there was a business plan!

    Three of their units are making profit because the users are able to pay a higher amount for services like emptying and transportation as most of their users are commercial buildings. But is it possible in an Indian context? Centralised systems if not privatised may suffer losses. If privatised, could be properly regulated to serve all classes of people, adding another dimension to FSM in India.

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    CSTP

    Building legislation is something we can think of in a country like India. Here is Malaysia, a builder who constructs more than 30 houses has to provide a treatment plant and hand over it to IWK to maintain and operate. This helps ensure the availability of an adequate number of treatment plants in most of the locations which ultimately help the environment.

    The relationship between the local authorities and the federal government is worth discussing. Previously, sanitation was the job of local authorities but when this treatment plan was built the federal government took over responsibility. Now the local authorities are taking no interest in the work. Sometimes getting land for different process of treatment is becoming difficult. In a country like India, where a 3 tier system exists, planners need to ensure they keep all of them engaged in the work. The system should be developed in such a way, people responsible for the FSM must be accountable anda  social audit is a must for the same reason.

    I was amazed to see the work they are doing. While open defecation is unknown to Malaysia I belong to a country where around half the population are practising open defecation, half the toilets are used as store rooms and whoever uses the toilet is not bothered about their sludge treatment. But this visit really gave me a hope. If we can become OD free as our Prime Minister has proclaimed, then we need a reality check with our sludge management systems and policies. Practical Action and some other organizations have started the process but we have a long way to go and much still to be done.

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  • Practical Action’s top Dads!

    Annie Halliman

    June 6th, 2016

    The 19th of June is Father’s Day, so I thought what better time to share some stories of some amazing fathers that Practical Action has worked with around the world, only made possible because of our kind and generous supporters.

    5. Anthony Ndugu, Kenya

    IMG_1606Before Practical Action began working with Anthony, a pit latrine emptier in Nakuru, Kenya, he was shy and felt ashamed of the job he did. He didn’t feel respected by his community and would often come home covered in waste. He even felt too ashamed to tell his son what his job was. Now, Practical Action has provided him with protective clothing and the tools to carry out his vital role safely, he is proud of his job and feels that the community finally recognises how important it is.

    “The family are so happy, they are fed and my children can get an education.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Anthony.  Sweeper Safety Kit could help sweepers like Anthony, from a similar project in Bangladesh, to stay safe from disease whilst they carry out the important task of protecting their community.

     

    4. Richard Tlou, Zimbabwe

    Richard is 46 years old and lives in Mphaya village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. He has been blind for 5 years. Life is tough for Richard and his wife. They have three of their own children and also care for his brother’s children. For as long as he can remember, he hasn’t had access to clean and safe toilet facilities. This means that they have no other choice but to relieve themselves in nearby bushes causing health risks for the community and a lack of dignity for all. For Richard, this was especially hard.  Having lost his sight, he had to rely on someone to take him and he could not see if there were people passing by. But Richard now has regained his dignity. Through Practical Action’s support, he is the proud owner of his own clean and safe toilet and his family are now protected from the risk of disease.

    “It has given me my dignity and will improve the health of my family.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help fathers just like Richard. A gift of Marve-loos training from you could help train toilet builders, enabling families in Zimbabwe to earn a living to provide for their children as well as ensuring they and their communities are safe from disease.

     

    3. Winnie Sebata, Zimbabwe

    Winnie is 67 years old and lives in Mashaba, a rural village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. All of his children are grown up but he is now caring for his 3 nieces who are orphans. Up until his retirement, Winnie was a primary school teacher, but now he works in his wife’s shop in the business centre of Mashaba. This shop is now benefitting from being connected to Zimbabwe’s largest off-grid solar plant, built by Practical Action, in an area that previously had no access to electricity. Not only does the shop now provide local members of the community with an opportunity to access electricity, Winnie and his wife have now also been able to expand their business, providing employment to local people and generating additional income with which he can care for his orphaned nieces.

    “We really hope this project will change the lives of this community and change the lives of people of Zimbabwe.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers like Winnie. Energising Education could help provide energy to a school in Zimbabwe, giving children a brighter future.

     

    2. Adam Ibrahim Mohamed, Sudan

    IMG_2832Adam is a farmer in North Darfur, Sudan. He is 52 years old and married with children. He lives in Zam Zam village, an arid area of Darfur  where farmers struggle to grow their crops because of the lack of water. But that has all changed. Practical Action has helped Adam and others like him by constructing a dam, which provides vital water to enable him to grow his crops. He can now grow enough to feed his family and even has enough to sell, so he can generate an income and send his children to school.

    As fathers, we have responsibilities; feeding our families, sending our children to school. Our life has improved and our children will continue to get an education.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Adam. A Super Sapling could help farmers in this drought-prone area to re-build their communities and plan a brighter future for their children.

    1. Your Dad!

    untitledOrder a Practical Present from Practical Action today and tell your Dad why you think he is number 1! When you order a Practical Present, you will be making a real difference and changing the lives of people around the world and at the same time, you can let your Dad know how special he is to you.

    www.presents.practicalaction.org

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  • Second generation sanitation challenges in Bangladesh


    May 27th, 2016

    Practical Action, Bangladesh, ITN BUET, DSK and The Daily Star jointly organized a national round table on faecal sludge management (FSM) on 17th May, to meet the second generation sanitation challenge. Around 25 senior representatives attended representing government, civil society, the private sector, donors, networks and think tanks.

    The first roundtable on FSM in Bangladesh started with a welcome by the Hasin Jahan, Country Director of Practical Action. She highlighted the engagement of ‘beyond WASH’ stakeholders to meet this new challenge. The Director of ITN BUET presented on the evolution from open defecation to FSM, the extent of the problem and the recently developed National FSM Institutional and Regulatory Framework to define who and how to handle this second generation challenge.

    Current Challenges

    ilot sludge treatment plant FaridpurThe current FSM market is driven by traditional sanitation workers in cities and municipalities but their operational safety, security, hygiene, wages, recognition and inclusion are all big issues. Some municipalities, supported by NGOs, have developed a sanitation action plan and demonstrated Vacutag machines and trucks for the collection and transportation of sludge and treatment plants using solar drying. These pilots identified a set of challenges which include appropriateness of technologies and associated business and management models for sludge collection, transportation and treatment. Sanitation consumers behavior and awareness is also a big issue for construction of appropriate containment and the safe disposal of sludge. The top challenge is the capacity (technical, financial, regulation and partnership management with private sectors) constraints of the cities and municipalities to develop, maintain and improve FSM systems.

    Environmental hazard or organic fertilizer?

    Growing crops with dried faecal sludge fertiliserThe managing director of Faruk Fertiliser, an organic fertilizer business of 500 ton/year wants to see faecal sludge as an asset. He said the supply/distribution network of more than 20,000 dealers, wholesalers and retailers of fertilizer across the country is very organized but a key problem is that organic fertilizer is a very regulated product and there is a lack of awareness among farmers/land owners about its use. Farmers are more concerned with increasing production, than improving the texture of their soil.

    Different speakers mentioned the huge subsidy paid by the Government of Bangladesh for chemical fertiliser (both in in country production and imports) but gives hardly any support to organic fertilizers. A few NGOs are working on the transformation of organic solid waste and faecal sludge into organic fertilizer but the scale is too small to attract the participation of a private sector operator. Speakers also said that the Government could be a big buyer of organic fertilizer if they decided to make it 1% of their annual targets which will be around 400,000 tons. They also emphasized the participation of MFIs/Banks to support small holders farmers to promote the use of organic compost.

    Request for immediate attention of National Government

    Speakers requested the Government of Bangladesh to review and approve the National Institutional and Regulatory Framework and develop a National Plan of Action and set milestones/targets immediately along with the necessary operational guidelines and standards.

    The National Plan should adopt an inclusive approach with coordinated functional partnerships between government agencies, the private sector and civil society organisations.  It should advance research to explore innovative pro poor technologies, business models to address the whole service and the value chain of FSM, capturing evidence and sharing learning and knowledge for capacity building.

    Speakers also emphasized the extensive engagement of the media for awareness raising and changing behavior to stop the unauthorized disposal of sludge.

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  • Wellbeing, water and sanitation – community led solutions in Kenya

    Stephanie Butcher

    May 27th, 2016

    In order to support our understanding of ‘wellbeing’ Practical Action is supporting doctoral research at University College London, Development Planning Unit. Stephanie Butcher is looking at the connections between urban services and citizenship, to support wellbeing in informal settlements.

    Stephanie Butcher is a PHD candidate at University College London’s Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience and Development Planning Unit. These reflections emerged as a part of a wider project conducted by the MSc Social Development Practice programme at the DPU.

    What do we mean by wellbeing?

    Wellbeing is a golden thread which weaves its way through all our work at Practical Action, but what do we mean by ‘wellbeing’?

    Critically it’s about people getting their basic material needs met. Our work in areas such as food security and access to energy and clean water, are all key to improving material wellbeing. But wellbeing is more than this. It’s about the degree of control people have over their lives and the quality of relationships within their communities. What this means for Practical Action, is that it’s not just what we do that’s important, but also how we do it as well. People participating in decisions and taking control of their own development is critical and central to the way we work.

    What innovations can address the next generation of urban water challenges?[1]

    Collecting water from a protected spring, in Kisumu, Kenya. This counts as an 'improved water source', but could still be contaminated.

    In 2015, I spent time with residents of the Kondele neighbourhood, one of the many informal settlements of Kisumu, Western Kenya. This community benefitted from an innovative type of water service delivery, called the Delegated Management Model (DMM), implemented as part Comic Relief funded work, and delivered by Practical Action under the  2008-2013 ‘People’s Plans into Practice’ programme in Kisumu, Kenya, with local partners Shelter Forum and Kisumu Urban Apostolates Programme.

    In Kisumu, the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO) agreed to begin working in informal areas, providing cheaper water to a ‘master meter’ in the settlement. The responsibility for this meter was given to a managing community group, who use a network of small pipes to deliver to individual houses or community kiosks. For the utility, this creates incentives to work in hard-to-monitor informal areas, as it no longer has to police illegal connections and leakages. For Kondele residents, both the master meter and community kiosks are new business opportunities, as water can be sold down the network at a small profit.

    What was most striking in Kondele was that the managing water meter group was linked with an elected body of representatives, called the ‘Neighborhood Planning Association’. Practical Action used participatory planning tools to support these associations in agreeing and voicing their priorities for service improvements. Practical Action’s intervention also particularly encouraged women, people with disabilities, and youth to participate as kiosk operators and in the planning association.

    Conversations with residents demonstrated a range of positive outcomes of this model.

    It helped the growth of the water network, generated employment and income opportunities for entrepreneurial residents.  It allowed for more flexible service delivery.[3]

    Residents experienced many positive contributions to their wellbeing, including perceived health benefits; greater community interaction; improved quality and quantity of water; and economic benefits from subsidised tariffs.[4]

    Yet I was also struck by how this model was working in the wider Kenyan environment, especially given the shifts towards the commoditization of services, and decentralization of service delivery.

    In Kisumu, an emphasis on cost-recovery in the Kenyan water sector meant that some of the most vulnerable residents were less likely to access the services. Master meters were most often placed in areas of higher economic potential, so that they could run as sustainable businesses. This meant they tended to be located in denser, wealthier, or roadside locations, leaving behind some of the poorer interior areas of the settlement. Tenants especially noted the rapid increase in rents with the improvement of services, creating real trade-offs in whether to live closer or farther to improved services.

    Second, while decentralization allowed for coverage in informal areas, the old risks from leaks and illegal tappings suddenly became the concern of the community group. While leaders expressed a sense of ownership, this increase in responsibility did not always come with an increase in authority. Ongoing disputes made it clear that the Kondele association did not feel they could fully hold the utility accountable in partnership agreements.

    Finally, gender aspects were improved but there’s more to be done. For many, the emphasis on women’s participation created options to participate in extra income-generating activities and water forums. However, where gaps did exist in coverage, it was still largely women and young girls that bore this burden as ‘household managers’, walking farther distances to collect from DMM sources, or squeezing household resources to pay more from private vendors.

    Some reflections on the Delegated Management Model

    1. collecting water in Kisumu 23493The DMM was possible because of a supportive policy environment in Kenya, which encouraged spaces of citizen participation.
    2. Emphasizing cost-recovery might prevent access for the most vulnerable. The location of master meters, household income, and rental status meant that not all residents benefitted equally. This suggests that some master meters might need to be placed in less economically viable areas to reach lower-income residents. Likewise, reaching agreements with landlords to maintain rental prices plays a crucial role in supporting tenants.
    3. Practical Action’s support linking the water group with the elected Neighbourhood Planning Association supported ownership and democratic practice.  This was critical. As in other neighbourhoods of Kisumu meter management has been opened to private individuals, potentially moving away from management by a community-based organisation.[5] While this is intended to stimulate competitive service delivery, there is a critical difference between the empowerment of savvy entrepreneurs, and that of an elected community body.
    4. Capacity building measures for both utility staff and community groups remain key. The experience in Kondele demonstrated the wider benefits experienced through the trainings of Practical Action’s ‘People’s Plans into Practice’.  Yet there is also still room for engagement with utility staff—and particularly in establishing clear channels of accountability
    5. Social and cultural norms continue to influence water services. This calls for further research on  the different ways water management occurs at the neighborhood and household level for women and men, addressing perceptions which reinforce identity-based inequities.

    What are your experiences? Feel free to get in touch and post comments below.

    [1] This was a key question posed by the 2015 Reducing Urban Poverty Student Paper Competition, hosted by the Wilson Centre , World Bank, Cities Alliance, and IHC global, at which I presented these reflections.

    [3] Castro and Morel 2008; Schwartz and Sanga 2010.

    [4] Frediani et al. 2013

    [5] Castro and Morel 2008.

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