Water, sanitation and waste | Blogs

  • An inclusive toilet in Nepal brings smiles to the third gender

    In the second week of January, I was on a regular monitoring visit of the SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project. As per the plan, I headed to the public toilet site in Gulariya bazaar. Reaching the site, I was amazed to see a large group of third gender colleagues around the public toilet.

    I could see delighted faces beaming with joy. Everybody had come together to see themselves being recognised. It was quite hard for me to believe that such a small initiative would bring them such happiness.

    Sapana is happy with the inclusive public toilet in GulariyaI was eager and meet with Sapana Chaudhary (39). She is from Basagadi Municipality 4, Bardiya and currently lives in Gulariya bazaar. Sapana is working with Sundar Sansar; a local NGO as a president. The NGO has seven executive members and 303 general members.

    Sapana was enthusiastic and said the problems the third gender had to face brought her to tears time and again. She told me, “If we go to the electricity office to pay the bills, there are only two sections – for male and female separated with photos; but we can’t find a section for third gender so we feel distressed.”

    She added, “One day, I was travelling to Kathmandu and on the way, the bus stopped at Lamahi, Dang. I went to a public toilet but saw the photos of male and female only. So, I went to an open space to answer the call of nature. Seeing that, the security personnel came to me and forcefully asked to collect the urine. I was terrified and asked him where I should go. I further told him to construct an inclusive toilet. I felt miserable at that time also.”


    Sapana continued, “During speeches in workshops or mass meetings, speakers generally welcome male and female addressing as brothers and sisters or mothers and fathers but nobody recognises thethird gender. We feel as if we have been neglected and are not getting due recognition.”

    Sapana and her team members are advocating at community and district level for recognition as well as for their rights through various awareness raising activities.

    In support of their campaign, the ‘Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015’ project has constructed a public toilet in Gulariya bazaar jointly with the Gulariya Municipality to promote improved sanitation for all. The toilet is inclusive with separate facilities for male, female and third gender including disabled friendly.

    Practical Action has been implementing the two-year project in Gulariya Municipality, Bardiya District in Nepal since August 2014. The project is funded by DFID under UK Aid match fund and is being implemented through Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO) a national NGO.

    Sapana and her colleagues are very happy with this facility. She said the toilet is near the bus stop, so many people can see the inclusive facility. This will help with replication in their respective districts. It is also helping to spread the word about recognition for the third gender in other districts.

    The toilet is located in an appropriate place so they don’t have trouble using it during workshops, training and other events.

    Additionally, the new constitution of Nepal has addressed their agenda. Now, they will be recognised as third gender on citizenship certificates and there will be no gender based discrimination.

    Sapana concluded “For us, this is a prestigious achievement. We would like to thank Practical Action, ENPHO and Gulariya Municipality for promoting such facility.”

    It is a small effort towards gender equality and social inclusion. However, it needs to be addressed at each and every level to achieve sustainable development in the country.

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  • Role of women waste pickers in Dhaka

    Mary Carenbauer

    January 8th, 2016

    Beneath the glaring afternoon sun, I watch as a woman crouches roadside at the base of a city garbage container, referred to as a “dustbin”. Using her unprotected hands, she dutifully sorts through the waste, separating out non-perishable items of value such as plastic, paper, and glass. These items are placed in a woven basket to be sold to a local scrap shop and then recycled. She is considered a “tokai”- a waste recyclable wastepicker. She is one of the estimated 120,000 in Dhaka.

    For the “Technology and the Future of Work” project, the Dhaka office has chosen to focus the waste sector interviews on the informal workers who collect waste from households. From there, it is transported by rickshaw van to the local dustbin. Although it varies in every neighbourhood, there is generally a system of microenterprises organising the collection. Although still in many ways an unfavourable and marginalised profession, being a waste collector requires some capital, allows for a fixed monthly salary, and has a certain level of visibility within the city. This role is predominantly undertaken by men. As explained by my friend and research partner Lamia, it is “a social norm” that women are not the waste collectors; rather, they are usually the tokai earning a precarious daily wage.

    waste picker on siteThe strategy for fieldwork designated one research pair to focus on South Dhaka and the other to focus on North Dhaka. From 11 to 30 May, Lamia and I visited 12 areas in South Dhaka. On the first day in the field, we spoke a woman tokai. She shared that she would like to purchase a collection van, but did not have the money and also thought that no one would be interested in selling her a van due to her gender. She worked formerly as a household maid, but after the death of her husband began waste picking as a means to earn more money. She has a son who assists her. She chose to call her story “I am helpless”.

    female waste picker with collection vanOn our fifth day of interviews, I was surprised and curious to meet a woman waste picker who collects from households. She explained that her husband needed assistance to pull the van and was unable to finance an employee, so they began to share the work. They receive only one salary from their supervisor. Although she expressed no discrimination from other male workers, she said she does not wish this work for other women, as it is “dirty” and “not nice”. Her work helping her husband seemed to me an exception, a visible overstep of a gender boundary.

    As the fieldwork progressed, Lamia and I traveled across South Dhaka. Interestingly, changing areas brought changing gender dynamics. In Moghbazar and Malibagh, we met several women waste workers who collected waste from every flat and transported it to the dustbin. One respondent explained she faced no social problems doing this work. “People don’t give me any trouble”, she said, “And this work doesn’t change the way that people view me. This is because at the end of the day, I can go home and I can wash my hands and then I am clean. Then I am the same as anyone else”.

    Factors such as gender, class, and race compound to influence both what women earn, and what work is available to them. As Dhaka city has no formal recycling system, waste pickers are the primary processors in a system of both economic and environmental benefit. Women may be emerging as the new face of the informal recycling chain in Dhaka in terms of participation, but it is often a face veiled from public or political recognition; a face kept looking down at a basket behind a dustbin. However, gender and class have demonstrated an interesting and unexpected relationship for women’s work opportunities in the waste sector.

    Far greater numbers of women waste collectors, who also separate and sell the recyclables, were visible in lower socioeconomic areas in the city. I asked Lamia about these variations. She explained that our earlier interviews had been in posher areas, and now we had transitioned. It seemed that in the less wealthy areas, there was less stigma around women’s involvement in waste work. These observations negated my previous ideas that increased income, and assumed increased education, necessarily leads to increased gender positioning- at least in the informal waste sector. Lamia nodded to draw my attention to the happenings around us and explained, “you see this man, and he is here fixing his rickshaw. And next to him, this woman is depositing the waste in the dustbin. And there are also men working with the waste. They are all working for their survival. In that way, it doesn’t matter that he is man and she is woman. In that way, they are the same”.

    Additional Reading

    Chen, M. (2001). Women and Informality: A Global Picture, the Global Movement. SAIS Review, 21(1), pp.71-82.

    Chen, M., Vanek, J. and Carr, M. (2004). Mainstreaming informal employment and gender in poverty reduction. London: Commonwealth Secretariat and International Development Research Centre.

    Waste Concern, (2004). Country Paper Bangladesh. Dhaka, pp.1-20.

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  • Waste and recycling: health concerns herald technology change

    Bami Dagu

    January 4th, 2016

    Waste recyclers in Lima, the capital of Peru, have overcome tremendous adversities to function as a recognised and legitimate sector.

    When they had started to pick waste around the city, they were branded ‘nut cases’ or drug addicts and were sometimes chased away by the police when foraging for recyclables. This presented a social challenge since they became a marginalized group.

    After unionizing and pursuing their labour rights, the Peruvian government passed the ‘Law of the Recycler’ in 2009- the first of its kind in the world.

    Their labour unions, known as associations, provide them with representation and the ability to negotiate better prices as a group. The recycling sector has boomed ever since.

    Although their jobs help make the earth greener, the same cannot be said for their own health, as the waste picking process presents many health risks.

    Technology change

    recycling tricycleMany of the recyclers started to collect waste with sacks, wheelbarrows, or industrial trolleys, mostly without protective uniforms, hygiene masks, or rubber gloves. The handling of unclean waste left them exposed to germs and the stress of transporting the collected waste across long distances caused constant backache. One of our interview respondents, Roberto, recounts how he broke his spine and switched from a wheelbarrow to a tricycle, and then to a moto-taxi. Like Roberto, many recyclers have switched to more automated, locally produced, transport technologies to curb these potential health risks. Other technologies that are changing or disappearing from use include transport scooters, pedal bicycles and pedal tricycles.

    mototaxi These health issues have created a market for newer technologies, enabling changes to technology they use. New and emerging technologies include auto-tricycles, known as ‘tricimotos’ and motor taxis. This is accompanied by an increase in the use of protective wear such as gloves, uniforms, rubber boots and hygiene masks.

    The fundamental shift from manual to automated technologies enables them to be more productive, collecting more waste in lesser amount time and ultimately, higher incomes, or increased leisure time.

    Collection centres

    Although many recyclers have been able to reduce excess physical effort by switching to more automated means of waste transportation, they still face a major challenge- the lack of a central waste collection centre.

    Currently, most of the waste they collect are sorted in their homes before being sold. This presents huge health risks, since they are constantly surrounded by waste acquired from different parts of the city. Good hygiene is difficult to maintain in such circumstances.

    waste for recyclingThis also causes problems with some of the recyclers’ relations with neighbours in their local communities. In an interview with Luzuela, a recycler in the Lima district of Los Olivos, she laments on how she has constant problems with her neighbours because she constantly brings home large amounts of waste to their shared communal space.

    Evidently, many of Lima’s informal recyclers stress the need for a central collection centre; so they can all sort their waste there, rather than in residential areas.

    The recyclers spend a substantial part of their income on basic expenses such as food, rent, childcare, education and other living expenses. The balance left is put in savings for upgrading their technologies. Since these informal recyclers earn so little, they barely have enough left to contribute towards a central collection centre.

    However, there are prospects for the development for the sector as the Peruvian government, in 2013, committed to the promotion and increase recycling practices within the city. The leaders of their associations intend to form an enterprise to capitalize on this opportunity, which could potentially become a lucrative business.

    The once looked-down upon sector of recycling in Lima is now recognised as a pivotal part of environmental efforts the city is increasingly making.

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  • Nairobi’s informal water vendors: heroes or villains?

    December 30th, 2015

    Nairobi’s informal settlements are places of startling juxtaposition. Holding 60% of the city’s population on only 5% of the total land mass, they house some of the nation’s poorest citizens and immigrants at the edge of Eastern Africa’s most developed city. Change has flooded in in some respects, contrasting with persistent socio-economic divides. While almost all residents have access to a mobile phone network, for example, very few have access to clean drinking water.

    buying water in NairobiThe statistics available on poverty levels are deceptive of the economy within the informal settlements, which is highly functioning and complex. Frequent water shortages and the absence of a public water supply throughout the settlements have created a competitive market space for water vendors, many of whom sell by illegally tapping into water lines or, if they are some of the fortunate few to have a residential water connection, sell it on the side for supplementary income. In Nairobi, it is expensive to be poor. There are complaints among the residents of extortion, with many water vendors inflating prices. Those that purchase city water do so for between Ksh 18 (12p) per 1,000 litres, and resell it from Ksh 3- 10 per 20 litres.  The price rises during shortages.  This leads many to view water vendors as ‘villains’, cashing in on one of life’s most basic necessities.

    IMG_0144 (2)But are the vendors villains, or merely good business men taking advantage of an opportunity to earn income for their own daily needs? Narayan and Petesch (2007) identify informal settlements as places of “hidden and invisible battlegrounds where poor people strive to realize their aspirations”, part of a “hidden symbolic world of competing values and norms that shape what people believe and do not believe and what they perceive they can and cannot do” (13). Many water vendors are pragmatists, justifying their actions based on opportunism (I have a water source, I might as well sell it to earn a living), social coherence (other people with a water source are selling it, so I should too) or as redeemers of a broken social system (if we don’t provide water, who will?). As one vendor said, “We wouldn’t be doing this if the city just did their job. Don’t blame us; blame them (the city).”

    Within the settlements, those who posses the technology of pumps, pipes and tanks control the access to flowing water, and divide the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots’. But even the owners of technology have their limits; their businesses are wholly dependent on the city releasing the water supply, which only occurs 2-3 times a week in most settlements. The water sector has become a frontline for the power plays between the informal and formal and the rich and the poor, all occurring within a spatial-social divide, the remnant of colonial-era segregation.

    water vending So are informal water vendors the villains or the Robin Hoods of Nairobi’s informal settlements? They are the former, the latter, neither and both. The answer lies within one’s position within the water supply chain. That the question should even be asked signifies a failure at state level to reconcile the gross inequalities of access to life’s most basic needs, with access determined by one’s geography rather than the right to it as a human being.

    Informality and illegality is a spectrum here. The beauty and the challenge of the informal economy is that people constantly defy generalisation into neat boxes of being ‘this’ or that’. Morality battles with pragmatism, and innovation is born from human resilience in a context of deeply imbedded inequalities, injustice and corruption.


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  • Gender equality and social inclusion in ODF Gulariya project

    Dev Bhatta

    Gulariya, Nepal, Gulariya | December 25th, 2015

    Gender inequality and social exclusion are issues of global concern. Over the last decade, Asia and the Pacific region have made remarkable progress on these issues. Nepal is no exception. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of Nepal has been executing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Building Construction, Housing and Urban Development (BCHUD) sector programmes throughout the country. It has recognised that the programmes in these sectors have not adequately incorporated gender mainstreaming and other social development concerns in their policies, programmes, services and institutional arrangements so far.

    Practical Action has prioritised gender equality and social inclusion as one of the cross cutting themes working across all its projects and programmes.

    Practical Action has been implementing a two-year project entitled “SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015)” in Gulariya Municipality, Bardiya District in Nepal since August 2014. The project is funded by DFID under UK Aid match funding and is being implemented through ENPHO (Environment and Public Health Organisation), a national NGO. The project is integrating gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) in all its activities as a cross-cutting issue.

    In the areas that the project is being implemented as well as in other parts of the country, women and girls are affected by the lack of sanitation facilities which has an adverse effect not only on their health and hygiene, but also on their safety, education, dignity and quality of life. Additionally, women are being mobilised at the community level as part of sanitation campaigns and movements. However we have learnt that both men and women should be targeted while carrying out sanitation related awareness activities as men and women prioritise and perceive sanitation differently. Likewise, individuals from excluded or minority groups and those from poor and marginalised areas may not be able to adopt new hygiene behaviours or build improved sanitation facilities. In such a context, the project aims to ensure the needs of women and men from a range of social groups (including the marginalised) and are taken into account, the effective participation is promoted at all levels prioritising GESI.

    Gender equality and social inclusion is integrated in the project activities by following approaches;

    Participatory Planning Process

    The project has supported to develop community action plans with participation from urban-poor/slum dwellers comprising mostly marginalised groups within the municipality. As these communities are mostly missed out in the local government planning process, the project enabled them to include their needs in the municipal planning process and have them addressed by the municipality. Local people now understand the importance of planning rather than demanding improvements on an ad-hoc basis.


    IMG_3804The project had adopted low cost toilet promotion approach with ‘7 B’ option. The 7 B stands for the seven different types of locally available materials which can be used for the construction of super structures which are: bamboo, bag (jute or plastic bags), bush (hay), bricks, boulders (stone masonry), blocks, and blend (mixture of two or more materials).  It can be expected that these options support the poorest and socially excluded groups to have access to toilets and supporting an informed choice to meet the needs of all users.

    Behavioural change communication

    Different kinds of behaviour change activities were carried out by using messages targeted at different audiences; using appropriate communication channels; avoiding stereotypes that reinforce gender inequality and social exclusion; using the language and traditions of excluded groups to reinforce change; and promoting informal discussions about menstrual hygiene and household decision making processes.

    Improved sanitation for all

    Gulariya Municipality has achieved life-changing improvements in sanitation. All 60,379 (29,300 female) residents including marginalised groups have benefited from improved sanitation and live in an open defecation-free environment. In the past, when there were no toilets, the majority of the community people defecated in open fields or bushes. Open defecation was humiliating, risky and shameful for women and girls who often had to wait until it was dark to ensure privacy. It was very difficult for those females who were elderly,  had young children, sick and pregnant to go to bushes. Ending open defecation has transformed the lives of women and girls who faced the daily humiliation of having to struggle to find somewhere to go each day for their basic needs, risking sexual harassment and abuse due to not having a toilet.  Access to sanitation is central to defending women’s dignity and equality as well as their safety.

    Inclusive public toilet

    A public toilet is under construction in Gulariya Bazaar in partnership with Gulariya Municipality and the project. This structure will have separate facilities for male, female and third gender.

    Mobilisation of local change agents

    Female community health volunteers, trained on WASH operate in the communities so that women and girls have no hesitation in discussing their sanitation issues openly.

    Project staff

    More than half of the social mobilisers are female which supports easy communication with the women (particularly in Muslim communities). Special attention is paid in the timings of orientation and awareness campaigns, so that women from different groups can easily participate.

    Creating demand for sanitation

    Triggering activities from demand creation approaches such as community-led total sanitation (CLTS) require the participation of all community members. Whilst women’s participation is often high, a lack of men’s participation can reduce uptake of sanitation facilities in families where men control household expenditure. Monitoring the sex, class and ethnic background of participants in triggering processes and subsequent meetings has helped the programme to identify excluded parties and adapt strategies.

    Hence, to achieve safe and sustainable sanitation for all, it needs to address disparities between social groups and advancing gender equality and social inclusion which are critical steps in achieving the project goal.

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  • Khamba’s Story: filtering his way to progress

    Swarnima Shrestha

    December 8th, 2015

    Khamba Prasad Gharti (42) migrated from his village in hilly Jajarkot District some fifteen years ago to Surajpur, Gulariya-11, Bardiya District in the terai plains due to the ongoing armed conflict at that time. Life in the terai was not easy for his family of five, because of the language barrier, climatic conditions, cultural differences and economic constraints.

    “It was not easy to settle down at a new location. Altogether 28 families from our village had come here to settle after life became increasing difficult there. But we had to struggle really hard to keep our families fed,” shares Khamba. He used to go to neighbouring country India to do odd jobs, but it was quite difficult to make the ends meet for the family.

    But now, things have changed remarkably for him and his family.

    “My life changed after attending that one training,” Khamba shares happily.

    Khamba remembers attending a five day bio-sand filter making training six years ago. “When I heard about the training, I thought why not?” says Khamba.

    The training was provided by SWASTHA project which was implemented by Practical Action from 2009 to 2012. It worked in Bharatpur, Butwal, Gulariya and Tikapur Municipalities of Nepal with the main objective of improving the health and wellbeing of the urban and peri urban settlements. A major objective of the project was to improve the access to safe water in the communities. Since, the underground water in these communities have high levels of arsenic, bio-sand filters were an appropriate solution. Bio-sand filters not only filter impurities like bacteria and iron but also arsenic which does not get filtered by other common filters available in the market. It is also low maintenance and can used for years.

    Khamba making filter in front of his house few years ago

    Khamba making filters in front of his house few years ago.

    “After the training, I wanted to start a small enterprise to manufacture bio-sand filters but I didn’t have enough money to start a business on my own. I asked a few friends who had attended the same training to initiate a joint venture, but they all refused. No one thought that making filters could actually be profitable. I felt quite discouraged at that time,” remembers Khamba. “But the project team encouraged me and supported me with some equipment. They provided me a mould to make the filter. After that, I took a loan of NPR 25,000 (1 GBP=159 NPR) and started making bio-sand filters.”

    Khamba made 100 filters in the first batch and the cost of one filter was NPR 2,500 at that time (it now costs NPR 5,000).

    “As people were becoming aware of the benefits of safe drinking water due to different activities of the SWASTHA project, it was not difficult to sell those 100 pieces. I was able to pay back the loan, right after selling the first lot,” says Khamba happily. “After that I was motivated to manufacture more filters, I made 300 and 400 pieces in second and third lot respectively. As I made the filters very carefully, everyone liked my products. People from communities and different organisation bought my filters.”

    Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter

    Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter.

    After the SWASTHA project was over in 2012, Khamba saw a bit decrease in the demand for his filters. “The sales were not rapid but it was regular enough to keep my income inflow ongoing regularly. I have not faced any financial difficulty after starting this filter making enterprise. All three of my children are going to good schools,” shares Khamba. But it is not just economic progress that is keeping Khamba happy, he also feels a sense of service to the community after delivering each filter. “It is like giving a gift of pure water to the families. I feel like I am serving the community as well while earning my own living. This is way better than going abroad for work.”

    One of Khamba’s customers, Pansara Rawal (53) was among the first buyers of the filter. “There was a government official who came to test water filtered by bio-sand filter, the results showed that there was almost no trace of arsenic, so I ordered one from Khamba immediately,” says Pansara. “Our family has been using it since the last five years, and there is absolutely no complaint as yet. The water tastes good and we have not suffered from water borne diseases like we used to do before we used the filter.”

    Another project, currently being implemented in Gulariya Municipality by Practical Action, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015), is helping to promote Khamba’s work and effort. This project is presently conducting orientations on bio-sand filter maintenance for fulfilling one of its objectives – ‘achieving healthy communities’.

    “I feel a sense of satisfaction that I am helping the community become healthier through my enterprise. I plan to set up a shop at Nepalgunj (the nearest city) to promote my business,” says Khamba. Fourteen other bio-sand filter makers like Khamba, many of them trained by SWASTHA have formed a network of bio-sand filter makers called Bio-sand Filter Association of Nepal (BFAN) with members all over the country. They conduct meetings two times a year and collect NPR 200 monthly for the progress of the network. “We want to promote the bio-sand filter collectively all over the country, the network has been doing quite well until now,” says Khamba.

    “I used to live in a hut, now I have made a concrete home and this year bought a motorbike too!” Khamba beams with happiness. Khamba has come a long way since SWASTHA and is a shining example of what a small initiative can lead to. He has not just done well for himself but also promoted the very cause of the project even years after it has been over.

    Khamba explaining about his filter in front of his house presently.

    Khamba explaining about the filter in front of his house.


    Khamba sharing his story.

    Khamba sharing his story.


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  • More than a toilet

    Sanjib Chaudhary

    November 30th, 2015

    When we crossed the streets of Baji Persia of Gulariya Municipality to reach Shalik Ram’s house in Neelkamal Tole, the only thing that bothered us was the billows of dust behind our vehicle. Unlike villages in the terai, the southern plains of Nepal, the pathway was neat and clean, with no signs of pile of poos – and no bad smell either.

    Shalik Ram Murau’s small family comprising two young sons and wife live in a long house, a not so familiar sight for a visitor from Kathmandu.  It is exceptionally long. The house is shared by Shalik Ram and his four brothers, with separate rooms and kitchens for each family. The children from all five households were playing in the common courtyard when we reached there.

    Shalik Ram Murau is a happy man to have a toilet of his own. (c) Practical Action/Swarnima Shrestha

    Shalik Ram Murau is a happy man to have a toilet of his own. (c) Practical Action/Swarnima Shrestha

    Return on investment
    More interesting to me was a row of five concrete toilets to the north of the house – two of them equipped with septic tank while the rest three with cement rings. It looked odd to me to have five toilets in a row – each costing more than NRs 19,000 (1USD = NRs 100). The cost, for an average earning family in Nepal, is way too much.

    It was Shalik Ram’s wife’s turn to douse my curiosity, “Every house in our tole now has a toilet.” “Why to have a common toilet if you have a separate kitchen and a separate house?”

    Only few months back the entire tole, a village sub-division, had only four toilets. Now there are 36 toilets, one for each household. In fact, Shalik Ram’s family completed building concrete toilets first and then constructed the long house replacing the old mud house.

    And the investment is paying back. Shalik Ram built the toilet last April and till now he has been lucky to evade once-a-month visit to the doctor’s. Falling sick was a normal thing for the two boys then and he had to pay NRs 200 at the least. Some visits even costed around NRs 1000. The savings will help him pay back the loan he took to build the toilet.

    Flood-resistant loos
    Another interesting aspect was the elevation at which the toilets stood. On being asked, Shalik Ram replied curtly, “To avoid the floods from entering the toilets.” Smiling, his wife added, “Didn’t you notice the plinth level of our house?”

    Neelkamal Tole is flood-prone and the area gets inundated during the monsoons. So, all the houses and toilets in the settlement have been built on a higher elevation.

    No more embarrassment
    Though a matter of mortification our conversation turned to the situation prior to installation of toilets. “To avoid being seen by people, we used to go to the nearby fields or orchards early in the morning,” said Shalik Ram. To this, his better half added, “For women, it was more difficult – we used to go to the place where no men came.”

    Days of embarrassment are over for Shalik Ram's wife and son. (c) Practical Action/Swarnima Shrestha

    Days of embarrassment are over for Shalik Ram’s wife and son. (c) Practical Action/Swarnima Shrestha

    However, it was worse when someone suffered from diarrhoea. There was no choice than to run to nearby fields. During the monsoon and floods, it was much more difficult to get a safe place to empty bowels.

    Then there is the danger of snakes in the dark. The terai is home to poisonous snakes like kraits, cobras and vipers. As per the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, 12,000 people are bitten by snakes annually and out of which 2,000 are from the terai.

    Now with toilets in every house, they don’t need to go outside to answer the call of nature. “Now, whenever I feel like visiting a lavatory, I rush to my house,” Shalik Ram chuckled. “This new habit doesn’t allow me to go elsewhere.”

    Involvement of all
    While we were talking, a man from neighbouring tole joined us and complained that people are not using toilets as planned. Before we could say anything, Shalik Ram said, “Fine them and they would start using toilets.” The fear of fine imposed by W-WASH-CC, the ward water, sanitation and hygiene coordination committee for the defaulters has helped control the open defecation practices.

    Janaki Ghimire, a social mobiliser involved in the WASH movement in Neelkamal Tole informed that NRs 7,000 has already been collected as fine. The hard work and perseverance of social workers like Janaki is another crucial factor furthering the open defecation free (ODF) movement.

    The “no sanitation card, no facilities” approach of the municipality has further helped this movement. Now, the residents need to show their sanitation card to get a citizenship card or a passport and even to register the birth of their children. The sanitation card has become a must-have possession and the only way to get it is to build a toilet.

    Bandwagon effect
    Being caught in the act is now more shameful according to the family. Earlier, everybody in the village used to go out in the open and it was like a daily chore for all. Since most of the people started building toilets, the peer pressure increased and thus started the bandwagon effect of building toilets.

    As Shalik Ram stood to bid goodbye, we noticed his crippled leg. Polio attacked him when he was a year-old and since then he has been facing difficulty to walk properly. For him, the toilet is not just another facility. It means more to him.

    Gulariya Municipality, together with Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), declared the area ODF on 25 May 2015.

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  • What if you don’t have a toilet, build one now !

    Ananta Prasad

    November 23rd, 2015

    “Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.” – E. F. Schumacher

    The curiosity was quiet evident on the faces of hundreds of people knowing the fact that, they were being gathered to celebrate World Toilet Day. People in general do not like to talk about ‘shit’ and that has been a global challenge now. Amidst the number of popular days such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Water Day and many others we celebrate one more addition is now for Toilet Day and yet people have apprehension about that.

    Yes, in a country like India where more than 50 per cent people defecate in open, talking about ‘shit’ is treated as shitty here. In such a contest there are instances and places where defecating in open is being treated as social and cultural practice. In many villages women actually get chance to mingle with themselves while they go toilet to open field at the dawn.

    Mobile-Toilets-in-IndiaBreaking the barrier of such myths, Practical Action has been advocating for better sanitation practices. In its major initiative in urban wash, in India Practical Action has started intervening in the faecal sludge management for two major urban municipalities. Newly launched Project Nirmal is targeting on a holistic approach to fight against the menace of poor sanitation practices and also exhibiting a model faecal sludge disposal mechanism in both the cities.

    So on 19 March 2015, two major events were organised on the eve of World Toilet Day in both the cities such as Angul and Dhenkanal. women SHG members, school children and civil society members joined in large numbers to mark the occasion. In Angul, the Municipality Chairperson and other council members along with the executive officer graced the occasion and shared how the importance of toilet in public life is now a much-talked topic and why it is needed to have toilets.

    Issues starting from girls and women defecating only during dark like before sunrise and after sunset leading to social security is now a concern everywhere. There are instances of molestation of young girls midnight and also instances of life loss by insects such as snakes and other insecticides.

    There have been constant health hazards such as diarrhoea and children in india are being growing stunted because of open defecation. All these things were the points of discussion while the district collector and municipal chairperson and other senior officials in Dhenkanal urged to build toilet as an essential part of daily life. Like mobiles and other necessities toilet is something which every household must have and all the guests vowed for a message of toilet for all.

    This was also added by Practical Action representative talking about the proper disposal mechanism of human excreta and faeces by setting up a proper faecal sludge management system in both the cities with the help of municipalities and efficient community participation.


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  • Planners must focus on faecal sludge management

    Ananta Prasad

    November 23rd, 2015

    With cut throat competition among Indian cities to become Smart Cities, there have been many aspects of urban planning which need to be addressed and adhered to. As per the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP 2010), India contributes to 58% of the world’s population defecating in the open. And according to census in 2011, an overwhelming 170,000 households (48.33 per cent) or 800,500 people in the slums of Odisha defecate in the open.

    A massive campaign by the Swachh Bharat Mission has, however, led the discussion on toilets for all. The State and the Central Government is also in mission mode to set the milestone for building toilets though all are silent on dealing with the output the toilets are going to produce.


    Many researchers and health and hygiene experts assert that an effective disposal mechanism for excreta is yet to be emphasised.

    “A good disposal system is a necessity. Otherwise, excreta to be released form thousands of toilets will still be in the air and create more health hazards,” according to the experts. The disposal facilities like septic tanks, dry latrines, bucket latrines and communal toilets accumulate faecal sludge, which needs to be removed periodically. If this sludge is not properly managed, negative impacts on the urban environment and on public health may result.

    According to experts, there might be environmental pollution caused by the effluent of not regularly de-sludged septic tanks or community toilets. Faecal sludge being used in unhygienic way in agriculture is another concern.

    All these problems can be avoided by a proper management of faecal sludge, which may include adequate de-sludging of sanitation facilities, safe handling and transport of sludge, treatment of sludge, and its safe disposal or reuse.

    According to a study, if one truck of sludge is exposed unsafely then it is equivalent to 5,000 people defecating in the open.

    “In this context, if we go along with the mission of toilets for all, there will be a huge scarcity of water and solid faecal sludge disposal 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 the solution to deal with solid faecal sludge,” was the view of an expert.

    There have been experiments in faecal sludge treatment in many countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines, Argentina, Ghana and Brazil.  Even in India there have been few experiments in Bangalore. But as yet no urban local body has come up with a proper plan of action.

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  • World Toilet Day 2015: good news and bad news

    But Mummy, I CAAAAN’T WAIT – the familiar cry for anyone with children. Fortunately we live in a place where a safe, clean toilet our children can easily use, with soap and water on hand, is never far away.

    But this basic human right is not available to everyone. #wecantwait is the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day on 19th November.

    BAD NEWS: The 2015 JMP report finds that 2.4 billion people are still without access to improved sanitation facilities and 946 million still defecating in the open. Schools and health centres also frequently lack these basic facilities.

    GOOD NEWS: Globally, progress has been made, and we should celebrate this. In 1990 only 61 countries had more than 90% of their population with access to improved sanitation. In 2015, there are 97 countries that have reached that milestone.

    BAD NEWS: However, in urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa the situation has worsened over the last few years, as provision of sanitation has failed to keep up with population growth. There was a decline in water or sanitation coverage in urban areas in 14 out of 46 countries between 1990 and 2015. There are large inequalities in access within urban areas according to wealth, and while in many countries, the gap is closing, that is only happening slowly.

    We know this matters because the health burden of poor sanitation in urban areas can be particularly acute. It has been linked to child malnutrition and stunting as a result of recurrent bouts of diarrhoea. The difficulties for women to find a safe, dignified place to use a toilet and in particular to deal hygienically and discretely with menstruation are often enormous.

    GOOD Beautiful toiletNEWS: is that governments and donors have been trying to catalyse change, and put more focus on sanitation. The Sanitation and Water for All partnership brings together over 90 country governments, external support agencies, civil society organisations and others to catalyse political leadership and action. The last set was agreed in April 2014, with commitments made by 43 countries and 12 donors.

    Many of the country commitments were about strengthening the enabling environment, and so did not focus on particular targets or segments of the population. On the other hand, countries were encouraged to focus in particular on reducing inequalities and improving sustainability. In three-quarters of country overarching visions there was a recognition of the elimination of socio-economic or geographic inequalities, and 27 countries made a total of 58 commitments to eliminating inequalities.

    BAD NEWS: However there were still only 34 commitments (11%) which mentioned the word ‘urban’ and only 6 (2%) which made specific reference to poor urban communities or urban inequalities. One commitment referred to tackling faecal sludge management which is a key part of the urban sanitation challenge.

    In September this year, the global community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 6 tackles water, sanitation and hygiene, and within that Target 6.2 is about sanitation:

    Target 6.2: By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

    To be measured as: Percentage of population using safely managed sanitation services

    Which means: Population using a basic sanitation facility (current JMP categories for improved sanitation) which is not shared with other households and where excreta is safely disposed in situ or transported to a designated place for safe disposal or treatment

    This goal is ambitious. We have a long way to go in achieving even basic sanitation for all, and only 15 years to achieve it. At the next high level meeting of SWA in April 2016, we would love to see more commitments with a specific focus on the urban poor, and on the safe disposal, transportation and treatment of excreta.

    Practical Action has been working on these issues on the ground for a number of years, and has decades of experience of working with the urban poor in Africa and Asia. We have exciting work on faecal sludge management in particular with urban poor communities in South Asia. We are committed to sharing our learning ensuring a wider adoption. Based on this experience we are calling for:

    • The SDGs, to measure and prioritise access to basic sanitation for all, while in urban slums in particular, work towards safely managed sanitation which will actually lead to improved health.
    • Data disaggregation which helps us understand the global progress (or lack of it) on sanitation for the urban poor – welcoming the work already done on this by JMP
    • More countries and donors to make commitments specifically for the urban poor in the next round of Sanitation and Water for All and at the South Asian Conference on sanitation in January 2016.
    • More and better quality engagement with civil society organisations in sanitation planning at national and local levels
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