It sounds simple to people who have access to basic sanitation facilities. But a technology as simple as a pit latrine is a subject of luxury for a lot of people. It is an alarming fact that even today, more than half of Nepal’s population defecate in open. The trends are changing gradually and the people living in urban areas have fancy bathrooms in their homes, but there still are a huge number of people who do not have access to this very basic facility.
Only six months ago, people from 197 households in Balapur in Gulariya Municipality-6, Bardiya District of Nepal defecated in open. In a community comprising of total 274 households, only 50 had biogas toilets. Kali Prasad Chaudhary, the Chair of Ward Citizen Forum, recalls the situation caused by regular floods sweeping away limited temporary toilets, lack of awareness and habit of open defecation.
There were a number of organisations implementing different projects in this community but sanitation was given the least priority. Chaudhary shares, “When a guest would arrive in the community, it used to be an embarrassing situation if they were not used to defecating in open. Various water borne diseases were common mainly among children and elderly people. Instead of getting to know the actual reason behind people would blame God if somebody died.”
But things have changed for better for this community. At this stage, five communities of Balapur have become Open Defecation Free (ODF) as 247 households have broken off from the traditional practice of defecating in the open after constructing toilets at their homes.
Indira Chaudhary (34) one of the community member says, “I learned about the negative effects of open defecation, and I did not want to be the one contributing to the pollution of environment and exposing other people to risks. I find it very convenient to use a toilet instead of going to the bush. This gives me privacy to do my business with dignity.” Her five member family is very happy to have a bio-gas toilet installed at their home.
This change became possible in the community after, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) launched SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project in August 2014 for two years in collaboration with Gulariya municipality including other INGOs with an objective to declare an Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015. The project operates with an innovative community mobilisation approaches through HCES (Household Centered Environmental Sanitation), CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) and SLTS (School Led Total Sanitation) for activating communities to progressively work towards stopping open defecation in the entire municipality.
According to Kali Prasad Chaudhary, “Among all these initiatives, the video documentary and street drama shows on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) were found to be effective in touching the hearts of community people.”
Likewise, Ram Prasad Chaudhary from Gulariya Municipality opines, “In accordance with the national target on sanitation, Gulariya Municipality has committed to achieve ODF in the municipality by 2015. To make this mission a success, we have started provision of sanitation card.” He claimed that the success of ODF declaration in Balapur was due to the sanitation card.
The understanding of Sabitra Gautam, President of W WASH CC (Ward WASH Coordination Committee) is different than that others. She claimed that bal hath and stri hath (recurring pressure from children and female respectively) played crucial role to success the mission. From her statement, it is clear that there was repeated effort of children and female to construct toilets.
“Now, we are living with pride and dignity due to improved sanitation facilities in the community,” said Kali Prasad Chaudhary. “It is not easy for poor families from indigenous groups to spare money required to build their individual toilets when it can be done for free in the fields. Balapur people thank Gulariya Municipality, Practical Action, UN Habitat, ENPHO, W WASH CC and all involved TLOs for their tireless effort to make this happen and succeeding in declaring entire Balapur community Open Defecation Free (ODF).”
It was not possible from a little effort to construct all the toilets (197) within a short period of time. The joint effort of community people, local institutions and district level stakeholders coming together, working towards ODF target made the mission possible and thus, the people from Balapur could have access to this basic sanitation facility. The importance of such thing a lot of times gets overlooked, but access to technologies like a simple toilet helps people to build a life pride and dignity.No Comments » | Add your comment
A proper toilet, water supply and electricity – these are some basic necessities of our lives. What can be more inconvenient than not having a toilet around when you need it? Imagine waking up every day not knowing how you would manage to collect the water required for the day! It might be hard for us to even imagine, but it is a reality that too many people are living every day. While the technologies have advanced to the level where we have self-cleaning high-tech toilets; it is estimated that worldwide 2.6 billion have no access to sanitation and 1.3 billion to safe water. The world sure in an unjust place.
The people of Shreeramnagar, a slum settlement at Butwal – 4, Rupendehi district of Nepal are a part of that 1.3 Billion. Water crisis is a part of their lives. They have to go to the neighbouring localities to collect water, which is a time consuming and tiring work. The settlement is not recognised by the government which does not support any development of infrastructures in the community so the people have nowhere to turn to seek help. But the people of the community – had had enough of this injustice and took charge to solve their own problem.
“We didn’t know how to tackle this problem,” says Narayan Lal Ghimere, a local resident. “But now, we are able to come up with a solution after we got training from ‘Delivering Decentralisation’ project. After the training, we have formed a committee to address different kinds of problems existing in our community. With the involvement of community people, we decided that we need to construct a water tank with a huge storage capacity for the equal and uninterrupted water supply in our locality,” he further adds.
They have formed a committee for the construction of the water tank to carry forward the work effectively and make the whole process participatory. The initiation was led by the community themselves with little support from the project. Everything from the planning stage was discussed and decided by the community.
A member of the working committee, Sabitra Devi Panthi says, “We were able to learn a lot of things and got inspired to take the initiatives ourselves, after the training provided by the project. So, we made a collective decision to construct the water tank. We were motivated because we received 75 per cent of the construction cost from the project and the rest we collected amongst ourselves. Those who couldn’t pay the required amount, volunteered for the labour work to make up for it.”
Now, the construction is complete, and people of this community have for the first time in their lives, access to clean water. “We did a grand inauguration of the water tank and water supply lines. It was such a proud movement for the whole community. The regular water supply has made our lives so much easier and our locality is cleaner now. It more beneficial to housewives like us, who had to spend a lot of time fetching water, now we are able to use the saved time in other productive activities,” adds Sabitra.
She further says, “I did not know that having a water supply could change our lives so much. It has improved our health as well as economic activities. It feels like a privilege to have water supply in our own homes; construction of the water tank is such a huge achievement for us!”
It sure is a happy moment for the people of Shreeramnagar community; but having a water supply should not be a matter of privilege and so much of hard work – it should be available and accessible to all; irrespective of their location and economic background. But of course, it is not so. Hence, when we talk about these simple basic technologies, it never is as simple as it sounds. A simple thing as a water supply can change people’s lives in too many ways. It saves time for the women who can invest it in income generating activities or in taking proper care of their children. It helps to stay cleaner and healthier. It helps to make human life dignified. It helps to fill the gap of technology injustice and make this world a bit more just place.
So a water tank is not JUST a water tank but a step ahead towards a JUST world.
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The members of the UK Water Network had an meeting with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently about coordination and policy messaging on urban sanitation. Very interesting, and maybe one for another time. In this blog, I thought I’d share some follow-up reflections from side conversations I had with some of the UK Water Network members on that day. We discussed the issue of disease outbreaks that emerge in urban areas, including refugee camps, during humanitarian emergencies as a result of water, sanitation and waste systems not surviving the stress they are put under.
The people around the coffee table where mostly from humanitarian organisations, organisations that focus on emergency response. That’s why the conversation was framed in terms of emergency response – how can agencies respond quickly and effectively in an emergency situations to ensure that people are still able to access clean water, toilets and hygiene products and that waste, including faecal waste (“WASH” for short), is managed safely, so to reduce the risk of disease outbreak?
The conversation was just as interesting for me, working at Practical Action, which is a development organisation rather than a humanitarian organisation, as it could be flipped on its head, and create the question: What can we do to promote urban WASH systems that are resilient to stress, and avoid health emergencies, such as a cholera outbreak?
This question brings together two of Practical Action’s priority themes: Urban WASH, and disaster risk reduction. It’s a nexus issue, the buzz word of the moment it seems. But what is not quite so obvious is that it is also squarely relevant to another strength in our work at Practical Action – market systems. Here’s how.
(The following is an extract from a draft concept note and capability statement that the Urban WASH team at Practical Action is using to create further discussion and partnership with other like-minded organisations on this issue. So it’s a draft, it’s not exhaustive by any means, and it’s intended to stimulate conversation. Get in touch with me if you’d like to discuss further, and hear more about our experience in this area).
Water access, sanitation and hygiene, and waste management (WASH) are effective and cost efficient health interventions. they contribute to reducing the incidence water and vector borne disease caused by contaminated water. In urban areas especially, special attention needs to be paid to faecal sludge management (FSM). That’s because, where space is limited, planned FSM is essential to achieve safe disposal of the most harmful waste away from water sources. Furthermore, in urban area its important that FSM is sustainable, and achieves total coverage of the urban environment if the health goals are to be attained, and maintained, over time.
Market system approaches focus on the access and service chains of water, sanitation and waste management, their enabling environment, and the supporting functions on which they depend, and take into account the economics of scaled and sustainable delivery (driven by public subsidy, service user payment and value recovery), and thus provide promising lens to analyse, design, and establish urban WASH systems fit for environmental health purposes. Such approaches should be:
- Systemic, in the sense that they seek to address the underlying causes of limitations in scaled and sustainable urban WASH and safe disposal coverage;
- Facilitative, in the sense that the role of the development agency is a temporary, enabling one, avoiding un-sustainably subsidising recurrent costs of functions in the delivery system;
- Participatory, in the sense that they seek to build on the capacity, processes and interests that exist among actors involved.
Urban WASH systems designed to ensure safe disposal of waste away from water sources are at great risk of natural hazards, especially those related to flooding, All the lengthy and costly efforts to improve health status by reducing or eliminate instances of water and vector borne disease can be undermined within hours by flooding, causing and exacerbating humanitarian emergencies. Resilience in urban WASH systems – robustness (resistance to shock), rapidity (response rate) redundancy (degree of slack in the system), resourcefulness (innovation in response) – is thus also a critical factor to consider as part of a long-term WASH-based health intervention.
Taking the example of flood risk, analysis involves answering the following questions and planning for flood scenarios:
- Where is the flood likely to take place, geo-spatially?
- What functions of water access and waste (especially faecal sludge) management are likely to be affected?
- Where are current disposal flows most likely to be disrupted and cause contamination?
- Which of these points are most likely to affect residents, especially most vulnerable groups?
Flood risk analysis should also be informed by the projected local impacts of climate change.
Building flood resilience in Urban WASH systems therefore involves:
Understanding Urban WASH systems and its core and supporting functions and enabling environment, where a market system lens is promising to take into account the economics of scalable and sustainable delivery;
Focusing on risk points in these systems where the flood’s likely geo-spatial coverage will affect WASH functions leading to disruption of safe disposal, contamination in areas used by residents, especially at vulnerable groups;
Making decisions about resilience building activities to build on the following dimensions of resilience at these risk points – robustness, rapidity, redundancy, and resourcefulness.
A final connection worth making, turning this issue back round to emergency response is the the Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) toolkit, where market systems are also at the centre of efforts to provide effect emergency response.No Comments » | Add your comment
Having received an opportunity to contribute towards the upliftment of informal sector is something that I always felt proud about. As I was planning my visit to Odisha, the first thing that came to my mind was our intervention for informal waste workers (IWWs) in Bhubaneshwar Municipality. I wanted to relate the beneficiaries, their work and the issues IWWs are facing in India with those in Nepal. I fully trust that the three-year long PRISM project in Nepal (funded by the European Union) has greatly changed the perception of local people towards waste pickers, and has hugely changed the way waste pickers see themselves. As we are trying to replicate many approaches from PRISM project, I was eager to see the early signs.
The first remark made by one of the beneficiaries, even before we introduced ourselves was -“We are here since three generations and this is the first time somebody has shown interest in us and our work”. Just behind the Bhubaneshwor Railway Station, lies this settlement: Reddi Shahi – home for around 150 IWWs. These people are warned by the Municipality to vacate the place at their earliest for the extension of current railway station. They are not sure where their next home will be. I could easily read the pain and nervousness reflected on their face while they were describing the situation.
A girl of around 8 years of age, came closer and sat beside me. I was trying to interact with the members of the child club through several questions I had for them. The girl was slowly touching my hands. At first she was hesitant, and did not speak a word for some time. She continued holding my hands and kept smiling at me. I asked the name of the child club – then she spoke with a smile “My name is Bima Reddi and the name of our club is HAPPY CHILD CLUB”. I got excited with the name of the club itself and asked what she does as the member of the club? “We dance, we sing, make jokes, hold meetings and discuss about the funny things we have at our school” – she replied with great innocence. I was expecting a different answer – for example, we clean our society, we talk about hand washing, contribute towards school enrollment, etc. To clarify myself, I asked if they do such things too. They nodded; but they highlighted the fun activities they involve in while being associated with the group. To be sincere with myself, I never thought in that line. I always focused on the number of children getting education, type of activities child clubs do, and the difference they bring about in the community they live in. No doubt, the Happy Child Club conducts campaigns in the community for school enrollment of all school going aged children; they take the responsibility of accompanying those children to and back from the school. They also work in close cooperation with the self-help groups of women to conduct awareness campaigns in the community. The important thing for them was the regular meetings which they start and end with an entertainment activity.
After I had said good bye, Bima whispered -” Tirupati does not go to school. He has to earn for his family of two sisters and a mother, his father died some times ago”. She was talking about her fellow members of their child club. I walked to the corner, where Tirupati was sitting and asked him the reason for not going to school. “I get so much involved in the work that I hardly get chance to smile. In this club, I come to sing, dance and become happy. I am 12 years old and left school while I was at Grade 5. At this moment, I can’t afford school. I hope to go back to school soon”- he replied. I hope the same; I hope that Tirupati goes back to school. Before that, I want to see him smiling and happy as he is doing now. After all, children deserve to be happy, and their smile is precious.
It is great to see that we have gone beyond our target. We have been able to win the hearts of our beneficiaries before we start implementing the targeted interventions. I truly believe that this project has brought about attitudinal change among the beneficiaries and has made them feel that “their existence matters”.
Through its two-years project “Appropriate technology for safe and healthy environments” funded by the Bernard Van Leer Foundation”, Practical Action is working with the IWWs in five slum areas of Bhubaneshwor Municipality. Reddi Shahi is one of the five slums.No Comments » | Add your comment
I recently visited the communities in Banke and Bardiya districts of Nepal who were affected by flood in last August (2014). While we look into the theories and definition of the Disaster Risk Reduction in paired reviewed literatures and sometimes debate a lot on words, for the communities it was very straight forward, why they were affected by flood and how their risk to flood can be reduced.
Most of the communities who were affected by flood were living along the lower terrace of flood plain where the river flew in the past. So when there is a rainfall in upstream and river gets swell up, they are the ones who are affected first. Their number one demand was simple – relocation /resettlement to a higher ground can save their lives and properties from flood. For the government, relocation is one time cost to save the losses and compensations that occur on the annual recurrent disasters. However, resettlement is linked with livelihoods of these vulnerable communities which need to be assured wherever they are relocated.
Some of these communities were freed bonded labourers who were resettled by the government in such flood vulnerable locations. The government could have settled them in a safer place. But unfortunately during the resettlement process, they were located in such vulnerable locations.
Secondly their houses were constructed by mud plastered grass or twig mats. The plinth level was almost at ground 0 level. When there is a flood of even some inches high, the water gets into the house and the mud plastered walls easily dissolve into the water and collapse. Since they were poor, that type of house is the best they could construct. They are very aware of, that if they could raise the plinth level of the houses to certain level which are safe from flood and if they could use bricks or stones or concrete with cement mortar, their houses would be able to resist the flood. But such houses were beyond their financial capacity. The rebuilt houses after the flood were even weaker than they had before.
Health was a problem after the flood. It was mainly due to unsafe drinking water as they did not have source of clean drinking water after the flood event. The hand pumps were inundated and they could not reach safe drinking water. Raised hand pumps were the need for the communities. It is not necessary that such hand pumps should be in each household for the emergency use during the time of disaster, but at least if there were adequate number of hand water pumps for the sufficient safe drinking water, they will not suffer from health problems originating from unsafe drinking water.
The community people opined for having simple raised structures in the communities or in individual houses which can resist the flood where they can assemble for some hours before the rescue teams come and take them to temporary shelters.
They also indicated the needs of rubber tubes or rings in each house which help save their lives during the time of flood.
In the past early warning through mobile telephones was very effective. But in this monsoon, the mobile telephone did not work effectively as they were unable to recharge the batteries for several days. The electricity line went off for 2 to 3 days before the flood event. They suggested for solar mobile battery chargers which can work when the main line electricity gets cutoff and such charger should work even in a very poor sunlight as the sun radiation becomes very week during the monsoon due to cloudy weather.
They were very clear that they cannot reduce the flood level, but there are several ways that they can reduce live and property losses to flood. But it is almost not possible on their own as their financial resources is very poor to invest on the interventions that they know of.
We think that these are very simple things and technologies, and why the people are not using, but the poor people still do not have access to these simple technologies and they have lack of resources in their hands. Because of which they are losing their properties every year and flood is actually suppressing them from coming out of vicious cycle. And to reduce the disaster risk of these poor communities, there is no need of high academic education and sophisticated technologies, it needs to support their ideas that comes out of their struggling with flood every year; it is a matter of helping them access to technologies and resources, and assisting to improve their livelihoods.No Comments » | Add your comment
Yesterday, World Toilet Day, saw the launch of the ‘report you’ve never heard of’, but it’s significant for the WASH sector. UN-Water’s global analysis and assessment of sanitation and drinking-water (GLAAS) report, produced every 2 years since 2010, looks at the inputs (human resources and money) and enabling environment (plans and policies, monitoring arrangements and so on) for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector. This year it collated information from 94 countries and 23 external support agencies.
Practical Action focuses on the water, sanitation and hygiene needs of the urban poor – so what does the report tell us about whether their needs are being recognised and supported? Here is my analysis of the report’s key findings from that perspective.
Financing for the sector is increasing, but still not enough
- External aid commitments for water and sanitation totalled over $15 billion in 2012 and have increased nearly 30% since 2010. The data available on national budgets and expenditure, though limited, indicate that government spending for water and sanitation is also increasing.
- However, 80% of countries reported that current finance is insufficient to meet targets established for drinking-water and sanitation.
Majority of money to urban: but not for the poor
- 82% of country expenditure and 73% of donor commitments goes to urban areas
However, digging a bit deeper an explanation emerges…
- Over half of all water and sanitation aid (56%) is directed to ‘large systems’, with only 21% supporting basic systems.
To clarify, ‘large systems’ include water treatment plants and pumping stations, large-scale sewerage (trunk sewers and pumping stations) and sewerage treatment plants. Basic systems are the things the poor rely on: such as handpumps, shared water connections, latrines, on-site disposal and alternative sanitation systems.
This finding is supported by other less comprehensive figures recently reported which also show the WASH sector’s addiction to large scale solutions:
- A WaterAid/SHARE study on public finance for urban sanitation in Dar es Salaam found that while 83% of the population rely on on-site sanitation, only 0.9% of public funding on capital investments went to sanitation services. The remaining 99.1% of public funds invested in sanitation infrastructure was directed to wealthier households with access to sewerage and treatment services.
Majority of money to water: but the greater need is for sanitation
We find a similar pattern for the focus on water, sanitation or hygiene. Despite the fact that 2.5 billion people are still without improved sanitation compared to 784 million for water:
- Only 43% of country expenditures goes to sanitation (57% to water) – although this is an improvement from only 20% going to sanitation in 2010.
- For the few countries that could calculate it, only 1% of total WASH expenditure goes to hygiene promotion.
Urgent need for more disaggregated data
These figures show that there is still much to do in the WASH sector to align financing flows to real needs. But beyond that, there were worrying findings from the report about the sector’s ability to provide relevant data. The regular publication of the GLAAS report since 2010 is an important step in the right direction, and there are signs that data collection is improving. However,
- Only 33 countries out of 94 could provide total WASH expenditures from government and external funding sources (which admittedly requires pulling information together across multiple donors and Ministries).
- Only 25 countries of 94 countries were able to provide an expenditure breakdown even at the basic level of urban Vs rural, or water Vs sanitation. Even external support agencies need to be better at disaggregating data in this way. It has not been possible, it seems, to provide figures show a breakdown according to slums Vs the rest of the city.
Not only that, but there is no capturing of some of the issues which make the most different to the urban poor such as whether faecal sludge is safely treated, or how much investment is going to on-site sanitation. The report says “only 37 countries could give any estimate of the proportion of wastewater treated. And that referred almost exclusively to centralized sewered services. Treatment for on-site sanitation is not captured at all.”
Any bright spots?
I started this blog with the positive news that funding in the sector is growing. Could I find something positive about meeting the needs of slum dwellers?
- 60% of countries have a policy or plan for universal access which explicitly includes measures to reach populations living in slums or urban settlements (although only 30 have a monitoring system to track progress).
So perhaps this gives us something to work with – even if there is probably a long way to go to ensure that those plans are actually pro-poor.
I’m posting this from our Dhaka office, and will be spending the next few days visiting three towns where we’re doing some really great work on urban services. I’ll be hoping to post more positive news on what can be achieved with the right kind of funding in the next few days.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Before my journey to Bangladesh I was told to prepare to be stared at, as some of the people I would meet might never have seen a white lady before. So I was expecting comments on my white skin, maybe my blond hair showing from underneath my headscarf, or even my height… at 5ft 7” I must seem like a giant compared to women in Bangladesh. I am sure all of that happened but I was told that what was really causing a stir and a few giggles was the fact that I was wearing boots!
Despite being obviously different the welcome I received when I visited a small village, which had benefited from Practical Action’s support, was simply wonderful. Some of the braver children tried out their English asking me ‘How do you do’ and ‘what is your name’. Abkor, one of the older men an I was told was the ‘unofficial boss’ insisted on having his photo taken shaking hands with me and throughout the visit tried to get his baby boy to call me ‘auntie’! The women all wanted to know how many children I had and how old they all were. I made them laugh when I showed them how tall my boys were.
Then I met Ria. Ria is an 18 year old girl who lives in the village with her husband. She spoke good English so we could speak without an interpreter. She was thrilled that we had visited her village and very quickly invited me into her home and insisted on making me a meal. I am in Bangladesh with the film company Ignite Creative to film for some science videos and Ria was keen to help. She quickly became the ‘star’ in our first video which will show how important water access is in technology justice.
Ria explained how the village has two water pumps, one is ring pump, that takes water from deep in the ground and can be used for drinking, while the other pump, a tube pump, does not go so deep and the water can be used for washing and cleaning. She said her grandmother remembers before they had any wells and they had to drink water from the pond, just filtering through cloth, and that this often made them sick and gave them skin diseases because of the viruses in the water. They were all very grateful for the wells, as well as the toilets and houses that Practical Action had helped them build.
As I was shown round the village, feeling a bit like the pied piper, I felt incredibly proud to work for the organisation that had helped improve the lives of these lovely people. People who despite being poor and having very few possessions are happy, proud of their achievements and live in a close knit and supportive community. I came away feeling there is an awlful lot we could learn a lot from them.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Bangladesh is considered a success story with regard to its efforts towards universal access to adequate water and sanitation in accordance with Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7. The Joint Monitoring Programme reports published by UNICEF and WHO states that Bangladesh progressed and achieved 97% open defecation free (ODF) and use of fixed place site sanitation facilities (pits and tanks).But the sustainability of this open defecation free (ODF) achievement is at stake because of lack of facilities and services to deal the management and safe disposal of sludge.
The responsibility of the sanitation services in Bangladesh lies with a number of agencies, the Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (WASA) in 4 big cities, the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) and municipalities/cities in urban centers and rural areas.
All of these agencies face constraints to deal growing faecal sludge management problem – emptying, transportation and disposal. Dhaka’s WASA only has the facilities to treat the waste of 20% of the population in Dhaka city and others depend on municipalities and informal pit emptiers for emptying. The final destination of this collected and uncollected sludge from 98% of the population is the open environment which brings adverse impacts to public health.
Sustainable faecal sludge management services is needed to take care of standards for containment, health and safety, appropriate technologies for collection, transportation and recycling of sludge, public private partnership protecting the participation of informal groups, pro poor business modelling, national awareness and capacity building.
To achieve this Bangladesh urgently needs a coherent national regulatory framework , guidelines and action plans and a coordinated and integrated approach for effective and efficient implementation of these plans.1 Comment » | Add your comment
I was waiting for the traffic jam to end at Teku, Kathmandu. On the sidewalk near the road, I saw a girl in school uniform on her way to school while I patiently waited on my scooter. I could not figure out why she looked so familiar – where had I seen her earlier? This 13/14 year old dark complexioned girl, with neat but unironed school uniform – where could have I met her? While my thoughts were occupied with these questions the traffic in front of me started moving – I quickly started my scooter and moved forward. But the girl was still on my mind – just then I realised where I had met her.
Her memory took be back to Christmas Day last year – 25 December 2013, which was exactly when I had met her. I remember everything vividly.
The Flashback …
The girl I saw on the road was Kanchan Kumari Poddar, now 15. I remember visiting her home – a two roomed structure with one door and no windows (yes, not even a single window). The house was dark even in the day time. The door – only ventilation and the source of light for the entire house opened to a small passage where there was a heap of waste plastics. On the left side was a small room which was almost entirely filled by a bed and a table with a small television set. Straight ahead was another room, half of which was a kitchen with an area to cook and do dishes, there was a bed on a corner.
A total of nine people shared these two rooms.
Kanchan is the eldest among the total of seven children of her parents – all of whom are girls. Being the eldest, Kanchan is burdened with lots of responsibilities. Her parents work as Informal Waste Workers (IWWs) who are mostly busy collecting waste at different parts of the city.
That day, I had spent quite some time with Kanchan at her home and neighbourhood. I was there to click her pictures (as a part of my work) and observe how she spends her day. She was busy taking care of her sisters, doing household chores and then studying if she got free from all that.
She was a fourth grader when I met her. Kanchan used to be a waste picker like her parents and had started going to school only a few years ago when a project called PRISM started supporting her education. The project was being implemented by Practical Action to improve the lives of informal waste workers in Kathmandu valley. She had shared that she finds it hard to keep up with other students as she barely gets any time to study at home. But she sure was glad that she was finally going to school, which seemed like a distant dream in the past.
For Kanchan’s mother, keeping all of her daughters properly fed was a priority – education was a luxury.
The Change in the scene …
After my work was over, I went straight to a movie theatre from there, where I attended a charity movie show. After the movie was over, I and a bunch of my friends went to Thamel – which welcomed us with a massive traffic jam. It seemed like a lot of young people- especially teenagers had gathered around Thamel to celebrate Christmas. It was about 10 pm. I was so overwhelmed to see such a large number of people gathered there. We went to a restaurant where we had booked a table, but that had already been occupied. So we went hopping from one place to another – and quite amazingly each and every restaurant, pub, and eatery at Thamel was packed. We had to come quite far across to a place which was at the end of Thamel to finally find a place to accommodate ourselves.
While I could see the youngsters – clad in branded clothes, drinking imported liquors, enjoying international food – I could not stop thinking about Kanchan. That evening, I somehow felt guilty being a part of that crowd. While the colourful lights from a Christmas tree in the restaurant was being flashed in my eyes – all I could think of was the darkness inside Kanchan’s house.
Has the rich-poor gap gone too wide? Probably, the world is full of inequalities – something that we have to live with and probably it will take a while for this to change.
At present …
But I choose not to lose hope – and also I feel glad that my work lets me play a small role to lessen this inequality.
It’s been almost a year now that I first met Kanchan. The PRISM project is now over which means the financial support for her education must have stopped – but she still is in school. Thus, I would like to believe that, Kanchan will have a brighter future and life will not be as hard for her as it was for her parents. With her education to support her, I just hope that Kanchan will have a life with opportunities – not just inequalities.2 Comments » | Add your comment
Safe management of faecal sludge is a big challenge for Bangladesh. Only Dhaka City has sewerage facilities for about 22% of the city, which is insignificant compared to the whole country.
To manage this sludge, people mainly depend on an unsafe manual process which is bad for the environment. Sweepers mainly use traditional equipment like a bucket and rope to collect the sludge from the pit and dump into the nearby open water body, drain, or on open land which is harmful for their health and for others.
Most cities and towns have no management system for sewerage due to a lack of capacity, awareness and willingness. One type of modern pit emptying equipment available in the market is Vacutag which is very much costly not only for the municipality but also for the private entrepreneur and sweeper.
The MAWTS Vacutag is very expensive and loan providing institutions both public and private are not interested enough to provide financial support to entrepreneurs for providing this service as a business. In this context, we have developed a low cost 1300 liter capacity mechanized covered van through our metal development center at Faridpur for sludge transportation to the treatment site and a submersible pump for sludge collection. The cost is around ৳180,000 Bangladesh Taka (£1454) for the mechanized van and ৳55000 Bangladesh Taka (£444) for the submersible pump.
This is being tested in the field by Practical Action
Collected from: Dipok Chandra Roy, Programme Manager, Urban Services Programme2 Comments » | Add your comment