Water, sanitation and waste | Blogs

  • Faecal Sludge Management in Odisha; The new sanitation challenge

    Healthy communities are the outcome of effective sanitation practices. Life and livelihood of people largely depends on their health and hence, sanitation holds a major role in it. Thinking beyond toilet, it’s time to ponder about treatment of the human waste and reuse it for the betterment of environment and a healthy life.

    As per the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP 2011) India contributes to 58 per cent of the world’s population defecating in the open. And according to last census in 2011, an overwhelming 1.7 lakh households (48.33%) or 8.5 lakh people in the slums of Odisha defecate in the open.

    It is noted that, if 1 truck of sludge is exposed unsafely then it is equivalent to 5000 people defecating in open. In this context, if we go by the mission of toilet for all, there will be a huge amount of scarcity of water and also the faecal sludge will be the next problem we will have to face.

    Looking at the smart approach of our urban planners and urban development practitioners, now it is highly essential for all urban settlements to come up with solution to deal with faecal sludge. Having proper disposal and a well-planned faecal sludge management is highly needed and should be given much importance in the current context. What if we achieve the objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and we achieve hundred percent toilets in the state and country. And we do not have a sludge management policy which will lead the disposal of solid sludge into our river bodies and also open field. What are we aiming at!!! From open defecation to mass defecation, where are we heading?? Are building toilets will solve the problems or will create a new sanitation challenge??

    Let’s look beyond, while addressing a problem also let’s also address the broader sanitation challenges ahead. According to report by Odisha Water Supply and sewerage board, out of the 60 Lakh people staying in 23 Urban local bodies, 31 percent approx. are defecating in open and among people using toilets, only 49 percent households have septic tanks.

    This is again sad, that only 2 per cent liquid waste are treated in the state and 98 per cent either percolates to ground water or adjoining water bodies through surface drains without treatment. Waters from Rivers such as Brahmani, Daya, Kathajori can hardly be used for further drinking water purpose. Discharge from insanitary latrines, sewage flowing in drains, effluent from septic tanks, septage, and rampant open defecation are polluting the environment and having adverse health impacts to all of us residing in the state. At present no ULB other than Puri has any sewerage system inside the urban limits. This is shocking and we need to act upon it immediately.

    Here, comes the solution. The Faecal Sludge Management and treatment is the need of the hour. The untreated human waste what we call faecal sludge needs to be treated. Be it household level or institutional level, it needs to be treated and an appropriate system needs to be in place if we want healthy life and healthy community.

    There are few things which can major take away for an effective FSM policy and management. Decentralized FSM can be a good demonstration on these public utilities and Possibility to introduce decentralized FSM in newly developing areas, public institutions like schools, universities, hospitals, apartment etc is something which needs to be addressed by planning bodies. A conducive environment for private sector and the promotion of PPP model in FSM Private Sectors will create more scope for funding opportunity for infrastructural development. Onsite sanitation solutions seemed necessary to disseminate with sanitation stakeholders for their possible promotion.

    If we look at the government initiatives, now Septage management in nine cities / towns of the State (Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Berhampur, Baripada, Balasore, Bhadrak and Puri has been included under ‘AMRUT’ launched by GoI. The draft DPRs for septage treatment facility in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Baripada has been prepared by OWSSB. Pre-requisite measures like land identification and acquisition are in progress. In order to regulate construction, cleaning, maintenance, treatment and disposal of septage in urban areas, government has formulated the Odisha Urban Septage Management Guideline 2016. Government has taken steps for procurement of 86 nos of 3KL Cesspool Emptier for 57 ULBs. All these information has been shared by OWSSB in public domain but still there is a long way to go.  There has been experiments faecal sludge treatment in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Philipines, Argentina, Ghana and Brazil etc. Even in India there have been few experiments in Bangalore. But no urban local body has come up with a proper plan of action for the same. However, in Odisha the state government has partnered with few philanthropic organisations and there has been two pilot projects of faecal sludge management are happening in Dhenkanal and Angul Municipality. If these proved efficient use of faecal sludge then Odisha can be the pioneer in setting up a system for disposal of human excreta.

    Further to add on, the amount of water being wasted in toilet, if the faecal sludge treatment is not combined with waste water management then, in coming days, there will be a huge scarcity of water. This may also lead to dearth of drinking water, which may break the nerves of any government creating challenge for the urban governance.  When a comprehensive sanitation plan is being developed, faecal sludge management must be integral part of every sanitation plan, which builds on on-site sanitation facilities. Sludge management is an indispensable part of the maintenance of these facilities. However, in reality sludge management is often neglected in sanitation planning because the need for it is less apparent than it is for the provision of water supply or toilet facilities. Even when a sanitation plan foresees a component for sludge management, its implementation is often impaired for the same reasons. Sanitation planners and decision-makers must recognize the importance of sludge management.

    As we have seen the adverse impacts of human excreta causing harm to human health and hygiene now, its time we must be proactive. With the campaigns of building toilets we must be tighten our belt for proper disposal mechanism. On the eve of toilet day, the urban sanitation planners must look at the mechanism of proper faecal sludge management.

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  • Juliet – the water entrepreneur

    Andy Heath

    September 7th, 2016

    “I’m so glad that Practical Action didn’t look down on me like everyone else. They picked me up and dusted me off.”

    Juliet lives in Kajiado, Kenya and Practical Action supported her by helping her to access a loan to start up her own water business. Juliet no longer has to struggle to earn a living by making charcoal which was back-breaking and dangerous work.

    In the mountains and forests where she used to burn charcoal to make her hand-to-mouth living, she encountered wild animals and bandits. She was once bitten by a snake and came close to standing on a poisonous viper. Her most frightening experience occurred when she was pregnant: she went up the mountain and was confronted by a man in a mask. She fled and he followed; “he wanted to rob and rape me”. Hungry and expecting a child, Juliet had to stop running. Fortunately, when she stopped she noticed three other men sat down – “they were my salvation”. The men stood up and ran after the attacker.

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    Just before Juliet had her baby, she could not make it up the mountain to get her charcoal and it got stolen. After she had her baby, her husband brought the charcoal down from the mountain for her and Juliet then sold it. But it was not making Juliet enough money and so she had to supplement her income. She washed clothes for her neighbours but she still struggled to afford enough food to feed her family. “I reached my end. I’d even decided to buy poison and kill myself because I’d reached my end! No-one wanted to associate with us. I was dirty; I was so black [from the charcoal].” Juliet could not afford water to clean herself and local people said that she would “die soon” as she was so thin. The day after she gave birth to her youngest son, Juliet went out to sell charcoal. No one helped her and no one knew she had had a baby because she was so malnourished.

    Juliet recounts having a premonition that she should come back to her local town and start selling water. A friends’ mother told Juliet about a local mentor who was creating awareness of a loans scheme. Juliet carried on living in the bushes for a month burning charcoal as well as doing other jobs alongside to earn enough money for a loan. She stayed in the forests for days on end, to ensure that people didn’t steal her charcoal. She made 200 Kenyan Shillings (KSH) per day – equivalent to around £1.50. When Juliet went to clean for people, she took her baby with her and would have to leave him outside the house, making somewhere comfortable to lay him. Through her constant work, Juliet managed to save 2000 KSH to access the loan. Juliet built a savers group of 10 people – which was hard to build due to her status – and each member had to contribute: their group loan was 50,000 KSH.

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet said: “There was no connection from the water company, so I couldn’t fill my tank before I bought it. My daughter and I saved money and we didn’t tell my husband. We got the connection and I surprised him! We managed to buy the water storage tank.”

    Once the water tank arrived, Juliet began to sell a lot of water which ensured that her local community had access to safe and clean water. The money she made from the water enabled Juliet to go back to the bank and ask for another loan to buy another tank. However, when they received the loan, Juliet’s husband took 12,000 KSH (almost £1,000) of it, as he wanted to go back to his home town to sell some land. He told Juliet he would buy a motorbike and set up a grocery shop for her to run, but he left her with his debt. “He was away for 2 months and he called me. He asked me for 2,000 more. I helped him because he was supposed to be setting up a better life for us.” Juliet did not hear from her husband for a further month and found out through his son that he had sold the land. When he did call, he was in a disco and told Juliet she was too old for him now. “He is 67 and has no teeth!” Juliet exclaimed.

    Juliet’s husband had received money from the land he sold and instructed the new land owner to call Juliet and warn her not to look for him. He went to Tanzania for a 2 week holiday and “surrounded himself with beautiful women because he had money. I continued running the business and saved enough money to buy the second tank”. Julia repaid the loan and now has her own savings.

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Her estranged husband found another woman and told her that he had a successful water business, that it belonged to him and that his ex-wife had stolen it. They arrived at Juliet’s home to take the business, but Juliet “chased them away with a machete.” The husband went to the police and reported the business stolen. Juliet went to the police station armed with her documents and explained what had happened. Her husband was told to go and never come back.

    Despite her struggle for money and being accused of stealing the business, Juliet is determined to succeed. She has even set up another new business, rearing poultry. “It was good that my husband left. I have gone to hell and back. He tried everything to make my life hell; he even tried to sell my water tanks… My husband left me with debt. He left me with a baby. But I am free, I am happy and I will not stop! I want my own land; I am working hard and praying hard.”

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  • World Water Week: water and jobs

    Gemma Hume

    September 2nd, 2016

    ‘Water and jobs’ is the theme of World Water Week this week and at Practical Action it’s a focus that we welcome because water is so integral to employment.

    The theme is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies.

    Millions of water related jobs ensure that water is made available every day for domestic use, for removing our wastes, as well as for sustaining our production of food, energy and other goods and functions.

    But a lack of skilled water workers, due to a lack of investment in managing jobs in the sector, is holding back progress towards a world where everyone has access to safe water. Millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or even protected by basic labour rights. This needs to change.

    At the same time the daily livelihoods of millions of people depend on well-functioning and well-managed water systems.

    Growing their way out of poverty with water

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje irrigate their farm using power from a micro-hydro scheme.

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje irrigate their farm using power from a micro-hydro scheme.

    In Zimbabwe, farmers like Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje have struggled to grow enough produce even to sustain their families as their fields are left barren by drought.

    They try to irrigate their land using pumps powered by diesel engines but they are expensive to operate and maintain and when they stop working, families are left in serious poverty and hunger.

    “We were failing to fully utilise our plot because of the faulty and old irrigation system that we had,” said Lindiwe.

    We worked with Oxfam on a project to help families survive future droughts, put food on their tables and sell surplus crops to earn a living by powering irrigation schemes through micro-hydro and solar-powered mini grids.

    As a result, Lindiwe said: “We realised a good income from the sale of the sugar beans and this has enabled us to send our children to school, buy food for the family and clothes for everyone.”

    Improving health and saving time

    For a poor person with no access to safe water at home, buying water can be a huge drain on their meagre salary. Many people have no choice but to compromise their health and earning potential by spending hours each day walking miles to collect water from unsafe sources. They are often sick from this water which impacts on their ability to work.

    Eva Nyamogo at the water kiosk she helped to install in Kitale, Kenya - giving her community clean water every day.

    Eva Nyamogo at the water kiosk she helped to install in Kitale, Kenya – giving her community clean water every day.

    We’ve been working with people like Eva Nyamogo in Kitale, Kenya – training and empowering her to work with her community and council to improve access to safe water and sanitation. Before, they had no access to clean drinking water. She said that people would have to walk four miles, every day; just to collect water from the stream, which was unsafe. People were often unwell and she explained that “they thought it was normal to be sick.” The community now have access to a water kiosk nearby providing clean water every day.

    Dying for a drink in Bangladesh

    In Bangladesh, every day 20 million people are drinking water contaminated with naturally-occurring arsenic. Each year 46,000 of them die.

    Terminal illnesses caused by arsenic poisoning include liver, kidney, bladder and skin cancer, lung disease, nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.

    The vast majority of people who suffer from arsenic poisoning live in poor rural communities and drink from shallow tube wells, built in the 1970s. Many of the wells have not been tested for arsenic and people using them have a choice between paying for bottled drinking water, which is prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of families, or take the risk of drinking from an untested source.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza, who are living amongst the effects of contaminated water.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza, who are living amongst the effects of contaminated water.

    Liza Akhter, 21, from Bagerhat said: “We are surrounded by water, but there is no water for drinking. This area is arsenic affected. If you collect water from the shallow wells then you would get arsenic water.

    “I have heard there are people who have been suffering from diseases caused by arsenic. The thing about arsenic is you get poisoned slowly so you don’t know who has been affected around you already.”

    Practical Action launched its new project after staff witnessed people they work with battling symptoms of arsenic poisoning, but unaware of what was causing their illness, and powerless to do much about it when they were.
    With your help, we are:
    • Providing clean and safe drinking water – simple technologies such as arsenic removal plants and rainwater harvesting can help communities access clean water
    • Educating people on the health implications of drinking contaminated water
    • Testing water points so that communities can see which water is contaminated

    If we are to achieve the Global Goal of water, sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030, or indeed Global Goals on decent work and economic growth, on health for all, we need to recognise that better water for all workers is essential – and now is the time to act.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza access safe, clean water.

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  • 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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