Water, sanitation and waste | Blogs

  • Systematic engagement of stakeholders can improve the sanitation situations in Dhenkanal Municipality


    November 20th, 2017

    Written by Ganesh Parida, Senior Project Officer, Project Nirmal

    Dhenkanal Municipality, is a small town in the state of Odisha, India. Witha a total area of 30.92 Sq. km and it spreads over 23 municipal Wards. As per the 2011 Census, the total population of the town is 67,414, out of which 34,864 males and 32,550 females. About 11,105 Scheduled Caste and 4095 Scheduled Tribe population live in the town. The town is having 14908 households. There are 17 notified slums in the city. Dhenkanal city, the district headquarters has a cluster of temples, archaeological remains, and a medieval fort. The majority of this district is covered with dense forest and a long range of hills, which are home to elephants and tigers.

    If we will analyse the sanitation aspects of the city, about 68% of the non-slum HHs and about 16% of slum HHs in the town have access to toilets and the remaining 32% non-slum & 84% slum HHs are practicing open defecation in the open field, river bank, alongside ponds, drains or roadside.
    People without access to individual toilets rely either on public toilets or resort to open defecation. There are public toilets, but toilets are ill-maintained, local people are not using regularly due to a deficiency in proper O&M from the service provider.

    The sanitation facilities in schools and other institutions are also inadequacies and maintenances of these facilities are always questionable. There is no sewerage system in Dhenkanal Municipality. As a result majority of sewage flows through open drain. There are no treatment systems for faecal sludge in Dhenkanal Municipality at present. Disposal of septage is causing serious problems in the Municipality. The collected sludge is disposed of in low lands, open fields, water bodies and drains. There are manual scavengers in the city working informally without any proper personal protection equipment like gloves, eye protection wear, boots and protective clothes.

    About 20 MT of solid waste is currently being generated per day in the city. The major source of solid waste generation in the city is street sweeping followed by households, vegetable market, fruit market, hotels, restaurants, institutions, hospital, fish and meat shops etc. There is a designated dumping yard in Ward No-8 for the disposal of solid waste but not for the treatment.

    Again if we will see the sanitation service delivery system in the city, the Municipality has many challenges to handle the above-said issues due to inadequate infrastructures and facilities.
    With this background, Project Nirmal has been associated with the Municipality since 2015 to improve the sanitation service delivery systems focusing on faecal sludge management. The overall vision is the demonstration of sustainable sanitation service delivery for small towns leading to increased coverage of households and institutions through enabling institutional and financial arrangements and increased private sector participation.

    To make the program effective and sustainable, engagement of the key stakeholders are highly essential starting from community to state level. Different forums have been constituted at the State, district, city and the community levels to ensure the participation of various stakeholders and their contribution towards the implementation of the project.

    Slum Sanitation Committee (SSC) has been set up in each slum to facilitate community mobilization, community monitoring of the sanitation activities, demand generation and preparation of planning at the slum and Ward level. 18 Slum Sanitation Committees are facilitating the community processes at slum level.

    Ward Sanitation Committee (WSC) has been formed under the chairmanship of the Ward Councilor to facilitate in the identification of sanitation issues, demand generation, monitor sanitation service delivery and planning processes at the ward level. 23 Ward Sanitation Committees are actively involved in marginalizing the sanitation-related issues at ward level.
    City Sanitation Task Force (CSTF) under the Chairmanship of the Chairperson of the Municipality has been formed to monitor and extend hands-on support in terms of awareness generation, ensure City Sanitation and service delivery system.

    District Coordination Committee (DCC) under the chairmanship of the Collector and District Magistrate of Dhenkanal Municipality has been formed to oversee, review, monitor and guide the project implementation at the district level.

    Project Steering Committee (PSC) as an apex body of the project has been constituted at the state level under the chairmanship of the Commissioner-cum-Secretary to Government, Housing and Urban Development Department, Government of Odisha, to advise, oversee, monitor, review and guide the implementation of Project Nirmal in Dhenkanal Municipalities.

    The major initiative is to establish a Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP) to address the issue of treating the liquid waste from the toilet pits. The CSTF and DCC have proactively made it possible to allow the required size of land for the construction of the FSTP and necessary supports extended to the Project for early execution of the construction activity. The construction of the FSTP is going on at Dhenkanal Municipality. It is proposed to complete it by end of this year and commissioned in the beginning of next year which would address the safe disposal of liquid waste from the toilet pits. Hope, this would improve the sanitation profile of the city.

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  • Championing sanitation in Kisumu

    On the outskirts of Kenya’s third largest city, Kisumu are rusty shacks that dot the landscape. This is Nyalenda settlement, an informal dwelling of at least 60,000 residents (as per the 2009 national population census). Nyalenda is the second largest informal settlement in Kisumu, after Manyatta, and is situated to the south of the Central Business District (CBD). Nyalenda consists of two separate settlements, Nyalenda A and B. Nyalenda A is subdivided into four units (Dago, Kanyakwar, Central and Western A), while Nyalenda B features five smaller units (Got Owak, Kilo, Nanga, Dunga and Western).

    An estimated 60 percent of Kisumu’s population lives in informal settlements and this population is rapidly expanding with the ever increasing rural urban migration, where rural communities move to the towns and cities in search of jobs and better livelihoods. Many households in the city’s informal settlements do not have adequate access to such basic services as water and sanitation, with as many as 100 people sharing a single toilet.

    It is this great need of Kisumu’s over 200,000 residents that prompted Practical Action to embark on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives within the city’s informal settlements. For over a decade, Practical Action has been working to improve the living conditions of urban poor residents through increased access to basic services such as adequate water and sanitation facilities, functional storm water, effluent drainage and solid waste management.

    A walk through Nyalenda provides a snapshot of what the residents here have to contend with. The congested tin roofed houses, large garbage heaps, and streams of sewage, are commonplace. One has to watch where they step as they walk through the villages as open defecation and ‘flying toilets’—the phenomena whereby residents relieve themselves in polythene bags, and then throw the bags outside on to streets, roofs and alleyways, is prevalent.

    Practical Action has been assisting the residents of Nyalenda by providing piped water with the support of Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO) as well as improving the level of sanitation through construction of toilets and pit latrines.

    As a way of ensuring the residents fully participate in the overall improvement of the informal settlement they live in, Practical Action and its partner Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programmes (KUAP) in 2008 formed the Nyalenda A Neighbourhood Association that covers the villages of Dago, Kanyakwar, Central and Western A.

    Christopher Ogla at the door of an improved latrine in Nyalenda, Kisumu

    More significantly, Practical Action piloted Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in this settlement. CLTS is an innovative and widely utilized methodology for mobilizing communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation (OD) and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free). One of the CLTS successes has been Dago village within Nyalenda A. This village’s latrine coverage stood at 54% nine months ago, but once Practical Action and KUAP with the help of the neighbourhood association as well as the community health volunteers (CHVs) and public health officers (PHOs) stepped in and introduced the CLTS concept, Dago is now well on its way to becoming ODF as latrine coverage currently stands at 99%.

    This modest success of achieving ODF status for one of the villages in Kisumu’s informal settlements demonstrates that if concerted efforts are put in place to improve sanitation through proper fecal disposal and proper hygiene, the spread of such waterborne diseases as diarrhea and cholera, particularly among children will be a thing of the past, and Kisumu can embark on a journey to see it free from open defecation which would herald a massive improvement of the health of its residents.

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  • Mesquite clearance in Darassa – from dream to reality


    July 25th, 2017

    Ahmed Mohammed Tahir Betay, President of Kassala state Legislative Council and former commissioner of Telkuk, admired the Darassa catchment integrated water resource action plan, saying that ‘to demonstrate the whole is better than only a part’.

    Mesquite clearance in DarassaHe decided to help implement this action plan by sharing his knowledge of cleaning mesquite from Telkuk town when he was commissioner there. This resulted in increased water supply in hand dug wells during the dry season.  So he will have support for this idea in Darassa, along with the scientific evidence and feasibility studies for the subsurface dam and the rehabilitation of Girgir Dam.

    The action plan aims to increase groundwater recharging and promote water facilities in Darassa. This village, which has a small reservoir and nine hand pumps, suffers from chronic water shortages during dry season .

    In community gathering in the village level Ahamed Mohamed Tahir launched the idea of removing mesquite, an invasive tree which affects both water availability and agricultural production.

    Increased water in wellsAt the gathering  during his visit to the subsurface dam construction in Darassa he said:

    “I realize that the subsurface dam is a new scientific innovation for this area and I hope it will be successful.  But besides that we will clear the mesquite which will be a bonus.  I declare to you all that Darassa catchment will be clear from mesquite and I am here to launch it. My contribution is the excavator machine and the community will cover the fuel, lubricant and operational and driving costs. We will lead the process from here to other places Practical Action working in Girgir dam, Misud and elsewhere. ’’

    This declaration puts Practical Action Sudan and the community on the verge of great hope.  There are challenges  and accountability issues, so the big question is whether this tremendous opportunity can be implemented well.  It is hope that, with this leadership from the government all partners will share in supporting this enterprise.

     

     

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  • Toilet trouble in the slums of Odisha


    July 21st, 2017

    Last week I travelled to Choudwar in the state of Odisha, India to visit a project being funded by H&M Foundation.  We took along with us two influential fashion and beauty vloggers Dress Like a Mum and Ms Rosie Bea to show them the realities of a life without adequate sanitation.

    The women and children that we met in the community are forced to relieve themselves in an open field, exposed to prying eyes.  They risk sexual assault as well as snake bites and contracting malaria from mosquitoes. If this wasn’t bad enough, women who are on their periods have absolutely no privacy.

    But all that is about to change. With funding from the H&M Foundation, we will be building toilets, a faecal sludge treatment plant and rainwater harvesting systems to change the lives of the women and children that we met (and the men too!).

    I spoke to a few people today about my recent trip to India (including a woman who stopped me in the street to say she enjoyed my photos (thank you again) It was such an honour to be invited to work with @practical_action & @hmfoundation – to actually see direct results and to meet the wonderful people who will benefit from the life changing projects they are working on. The things I saw, people I meet and places we visited will stay with me for life, at times I felt like I was inside a TV program – it was unreal, humbling and inspiring. Thanks for all your kind words, support and for following my trip – videos to follow next week x And big thanks to @practical_action for all that you do for the world ❤️ #dresslikeamuminindia #india #practicalactionindia #practicalaction #hm #hmfoundation

    A post shared by Zoë de Pass (@dresslikeamum) on

    It was fantastic to open Zoe and Rosie’s eyes to these issues, to help them understand the problems that people are facing and how we are going to work together to fix them.

    We were given such a warm welcome, particularly when we arrived laden with make-up for the teenagers in the community. We lost count of the number of fingernails that were painted and blue eye shadow that was applied!

    Working with ‘social influencers’ like Zoe and Rosie is a new thing for us but is really helping us to reach new audiences with our work. We’ll be back in November once the toilets are under construction – watch this space!

    Watch Rosie’s video about the visit

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  • Imagine bringing up your toddler here?

    I recently visited Kisumu, Kenya, where Practical Action is working with two local partner organisations (KUAP and Umande Trust) in a five-year project to transform the sanitation situation for 64,200 residents of the city’s informal settlements.

    Drains polluted with waste and human faeces, Obunga, Kisumu (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    We visited families to understand the extreme challenges faced by parents and carers looking after children under 5 years. As a Mum of two, the youngest of whom turns 6 next month, I could easily make comparisons. There are so many different stages babies, toddlers and children go through in those years, and so many challenges to keeping them healthy and happy. This area has been acknowledged as a blind spot within the already blind spot of understanding how to make progress on sanitation.

    If my children catch one of those nasty ‘winter vomiting bugs’ I know I’m in for a hard time. All that extra washing and cleaning up, and trying to bleach every surface I might have inadvertently contaminated.

    Now imagine dealing with 10 month-old twins with diarrhoea and vomiting with cloth nappies which have to be washed by hand, and where you can’t afford expensive cleaning products. No wonder the whole family got sick.

    Family from Obunga, Kisumu, with their older boy and one of their 10 month old twins (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Children are generally taken out of nappies far earlier in developing countries than in the UK – and it seems that can mean more accidents, that can be hard to clean up where floors are not just mud or concrete and not easily wiped.

    And when children are old enough to manage their own toileting, the pit latrines adults use are not places for children. They are often filthy with excrement on various surfaces, and not designed to be used with little legs. Parents would rather put down old newspapers for children, or get them to use a potty, with the contents disposed in the toilet. But then again, sometimes children have to be left while the parent is at work in which case they are more inclined to just use an open space outside.

    Latrines are often generally avoided by young children (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    This is not uncommon. In a global study in countries with poor sanitation, UNICEF found that over 50 percent of households with children under age three reported that the faeces of their children were unsafely disposed of. Even among households with improved toilets or latrines, some unsafe child faeces disposal behavior was reported by caregivers.

    Every time these children and carers want to wash their hands they need to get the basin, soap and container of water out separately. It’s enough of a struggle to remind my children to always wash their hands and that’s when the basin is right there with soap on hand.

    Handwashing (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Practical Action is working to transform the situation – using a combination of school-led and community-led total sanitation, which uses visual demonstrations to explain how an environment polluted with so much faeces is damaging everyone’s health. Encouraging handwashing and making it easier is also an important focus. We’ve been running the programme for a little over a year with good results so far, and action will be ramping up in the coming year. With the support of Public Health Officers and a cadre of amazingly motivated ‘natural leaders’ from the community we think the collective behaviour change needed will be ignited.

    As one Public Health Officer told me: “it’s one thing to force people to build toilets, but that’s not the answer. What matters is that they are used by everyone all the time.” And that’s the change we’re aiming for: a shit-free environment and a healthy future for Kisumu’s children.

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  • Lessons from Turkana on promoting sanitation in Kenya’s arid areas

    Since 2014, Practical Action has been delivering water, sanitation and hygiene promotion services to communities in northern Kenya through its SWIFT project.

    This is how a typical pit latrine built from local materials looks. Due to poor soil structure many of such latrines soon collapse.

    So far we have worked in 9 locations of Turkana County reaching 160,000 women, men and children directly. The activities that have been undertaken include the drilling of boreholes, Installation of pumps, construction of shallow wells, rehabilitation of 10 dysfunctional shallow wells, upgrading of 6 piped water systems and the Installation 5 high capacity solar pumps.

    Heavy rains and flash floods in Turkana wash away soil and damage structures such as latrines

    As part of the project, the Kenya program was also expected to construct 275 latrines with an expected outcome of reducing the occurrences of open defecation. The locations, mainly on the outskirts of the major town (Lodwar), had over 90% occurrence of open defecation and only a handful of sanitation facilities.

    The project faced a few challenges in 2016 with a number of the latrines collapsing due to the environment and condition of the soil in Turkana – loose soils that cause the collapse and exacerbated by disruptive weather such as heavy rain and flash flooding.

    As the toilets in Turkana were constantly collapsing due to the weak soil structure. We came up with simple culverts to line the outer wall of the latrine

    The collapse of the latrines meant a strategic shift in understanding the context and re-examining the technology needed to ensure that the latrines are sustainable and contextually appropriate for the arid and semi-arid areas of Northern Kenya.

    The Kenya program has recently embarked on another leg of the project to reconstruct the latrines. The new technology will involve lining the pit latrines with culverts and a top concrete slab that would make the latrines resistant to the harsh climate and adaptable to the loose soil. In addition, the use of culverts means the latrines would be appropriate to the lifestyle of the predominantly pastoralist community and can be easily moved /relocated by the community if need be.

    A community member digs the loose sandy soil to install a culvert that acts as the wall of the pit latrine

    Due to the weak soil structure culverts have to be installed to ensure the walls of the latrines do not collapse

    This concrete mould acts as the cover of the culvert and the base of the pit latrine

    Construction has commenced in four locations in Turkana County with an anticipated finish of July. This project provides an opportunity for reflection and demonstrate appropriate sanitation technology for an arid climate and most importantly pastoralist communities who are in constant movement. Practical Action in Eastern Africa hopes that the technology employed and its success will generate learning, inspire others and create opportunities for further programming in waste management and the re-use/ recycle of faecal waste that hasn’t been considered before in the geographic area.

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  • CLTS making an impact on sanitation in Kisumu

    Over the last year or so, Practical Action and our partner organisations KUAP and Umande Trust, have been rolling out a programme of urban-adapted CLTS (community-led total sanitation) in informal settlements in Kisumu. The work is part of a five-year project supported by Comic Relief.

    Last week I visited and was treated to a demonstration of some of the team’s favourite tools, as they described both what works best, and some of the challenges of taking these tools designed for rural contexts, into urban environments.

    Open Defecation hotspot in Kisumu (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Differences in context

    Two years ago, I visited similar work in Nakuru, and summarised 11 differences between urban and rural CLTS. Many of these also apply in Kisumu. The local team themselves identified these features of urban areas as the most important in making collective triggering and behaviour change more challenging:

    • Large areas with large populations, with the need to break this down into smaller chunks to reach more people
    • Large numbers of tenants, with the need to persuade landlords to invest in better sanitation
    • The opportunity to reach people through the area’s schools, with children taking messages home from ‘health clubs’
    • A diverse, shifting, population where attempting to persuade your neighbour to change their ways may be seen as disrespectful
    • Open Defecation does not only mean hotspots, but can also mean polluted latrines, leaking and ‘hanging’ toilets open to the drains, flying toilets, open dump sites with waste such as sanitary towels and nappies, burst sewer lines, and the work of pit emptiers where the contents of a pit is emptied directly onto open ground.

    We have mapped all these sources of open defecation through transect walks using GIS technology and combined all the information to generate open defecation ‘heat’ maps. The aim of a CLTS approach is to help communities to eliminate all of these.

    Open Defecation Hotspot Analysis for Obunga low income settlement, Kisumu

    Favourite triggering tools

    In CLTS, it is often the ‘triggering’ process that is the most dramatic. This is the moment when, through demonstrations and visual tools, community members realise the drastic environmental situation they find themselves in, where they are, in all likelihood, eating each other’s poo.

    Public Health Officers trained by Practical Action have been supporting the process through their cadre of community health volunteers. At the same time, natural leaders have emerged from initial triggering events. These passionate and committed people have done the bulk of the triggering events so far. Many of the tools they use are familiar to CLTS practitioners such as:

    • Mapping of landmarks, houses and open defecation hotspots
    • Transect walks to open defecation hotspots and broken latrines
    • Bread and faeces side by side to watch the flies move from one to another
    • Clean water which is then polluted by faeces on a stick, and people no longer want to drink it
    • Calculations of the volume of faeces present in the community
    • Health cost calculations of the amounts spent on treating diseases caused by an environment polluted with poo

    Among the most impactful of these was reported to be the health cost calculation because in urban areas, people are acutely aware of the cost of everything.

    CLTS triggering in action, Nyalenda, Kisumu (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    In the area of Nyalenda called ‘Dago’ where we met the team, there has been a dramatic improvement. A major search had to be mounted to find any faeces with which to demonstrate! It was reported that almost all the plot-owners had now built toilets. But this area was more spread-out with enough space for digging simple pit latrines and fewer tenants. The process will likely be slower and need to involve many more stakeholders and different technology choices in more densely populated areas where soils either collapse too easily, are too rocky, or where the water table is high.

    We are learning from our recently completed work in Nakuru, and as the process moves forward we will share more highlights. The Public Health Department are keen to learn from others and celebrate the first communities becoming ODF. That may require some local adaptations of the verification protocol relax the requirements for hand washing facilities at the toilets, which is what has blocked settlements in Nakuru from achieving this status.

    As the process moves forward, we’ll share more updates and insights via our blog.

    Together with Plan International and the CLTS Knowledge Hub at IDS, Sussex University, we are compiling experiences of urban CLTS to create a new guide that will be launched later this year. This builds on the ‘Addis Agreement‘ which shares experiences of urban CLTS published in 2016.

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  • Inclusive toilet – an example of inclusive public sanitation business


    June 20th, 2017

    Public Toilet at Gulariya Municipality

    During one of my field trips to Gulariya, in the mid-western Nepal, a gender friendly public toilet caught my attention. Peeping through the vehicle’s window, I decided to visit the site after completing my meeting with Gulariya Municipality Office and following up on the new activities of the Safa Swastha Gulariya project.

    The public toilet has not only male and female sections but also a separate section for third genders. A bright new paint applied to the facility and a shop with colourful display of snacks adjacent to the toilet was completely new from what I had seen during its early construction phase.

    Gender inclusive toilet run by a woman

    Nilam at her shop adjacent to public toilet

    As I entered the toilet premises, I saw a woman in charge of the shop. The public toilet facility operator, Nilam Chaudhary hails from Khaire Chandanpur. She recalls, “About 5-6 months ago, my husband came back home from work and said he had signed an agreement with Gulariya Municipality to operate the public toilet with a shop and I needed to operate the both.” Being a housewife, she was afraid at the beginning but now she is getting familiar to running the facility.

    She operates the facility from 8:30 in morning to 6:30 in the evening. She also takes care of her two-and-half-year-old son and household chores. She thinks it would have been easier to manage the time had there been a room to stay. She could operate the facility for more time as well. However, she doesn’t find any difference between the male, female and third gender toilet designs.

    Designed for self-sustainability

    Practical Action implemented Safa Swastha Gulariya project in Gulariya Municipality of Bardiya District from August 2014 to July 2016. The project, funded by DFID under UK Aid match fund, was implemented through Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO), a national NGO. One of the major activities of the project was to declare ‘Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015’. For the improvement of the public sanitation aspect, the project constructed the public toilet in the bazaar near the police office and district hospital area. This public toilet, unique in its inclusive nature, has separate facilities for both male and female as well as a separate cubicle for third gender.

    The facility earns income through the user charge, parking charge for vehicles and sale of goods from the shop. The income from the toilet and shop is kept separately but the expenditures are not kept separately. Nilam told the facility operates almost at breakeven and sometimes the income is not enough to pay the monthly lease fee to the municipality. Comparatively, most of the toilet users are males followed by third gender and then by women. The male toilet users mostly are the pedestrians, travelers and public transport drivers.

    Social aspects of managing a public toilet

    Different sections of public toilet

    The social aspect of engagement of women in public sanitation business is not so negative. When someone asks her about job, Nilam tells them she operates both the shop and public toilet in the same building. She also has never got negative feedback from others that she is in the business of operating a public toilet.

    One of the most common answers she gets from users when asked about user fee is, “Why she charges user fee for a service provided by the government.

    The business aspect of operating a shop in public toilet comes into use when a person pays for user fee and asks for candies, bubble gum, etc., in lieu of small change.

    The predefined traditional perspective of sanitation service, especially public toilets being managed by the so-called lower castes, the untouchables placed lowest at the social hierarchy can be changed. The successful engagement of women from different social and economic strata can create a changed outlook of public sanitation business. This also helps being inclusive, not only in terms of service to different genders, but also engaging middle class families to support their livelihoods.

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  • From despair to dignity – emergency response project in Sudan


    May 24th, 2017

    Heavy rain that hit the eastern region of Sudan in the summer of 2016 and flashfloods, caused substantial damage to communities in Kassala state.  This posed unique challenges and exposed local communities to different areas of vulnerability.

    In response, Practical Action and Plan Sudan, working in the Aqua4East Partnership, a water  project in the region, developed a six months emergency response initiative to protect the  area from the negative impacts of the emergency situation. The priority was to help the affected communities respond to, and rapidly recover from this disaster, and to strengthen their resilience to future natural crises. Practical Action focused on addressing the life-saving needs of vulnerable affected people through a holistic water, sanitation, and hygiene programme.

    This story of Adam and his family is just one of thousands of success stories of families that benefited from the this project in Kassala, one of the country’s poorest states.

    Await village is 35km north of Kassala city. The region suffers from chronic poverty, food insecurity, lack of access to basic facilities, and limited support from state government. The people of Await are extremely poor; they lack the basic facilities of life; including education, health, and hygiene. The local culture and social restrictions imposed by the community keeps girls out of classroom education.

    Adam Mohamed Abu Fatima is a 45 year old man whose life has been a hard struggle for him and his family.

    I used to have no hope and was never able to help my family.

    His wife is terminally ill due to unhealthy food and lack of income. Adam really wanted to help her, but the costs of medicines, and seeing a doctor were too high. He has five children, two boys and three girls. The two boys and the youngest girl are enrolled in primary school. The two older girls help the family make a living, look after their mother, and take care of other domestic work.

    Adam’s story shows how much change can come about when a family works together and supports each other.

    Adam used to earn his living from carrying water  and fetching firewood.  He earned around his earning were on average SDG 20 per day (£2.30). Things started to improve when the water committee in Twaite purchased him a donkey cart fitted with two water drums to supply water on a daily basis to the latrines newly constructed by the Emergency Response Project.  These were built to reduce the practice of open area defection and subsequently reduce contamination and spread of diseases in the village. Adam also uses this donkey cart  to sell water to the community. His income has increased by SDG 100 (£12) per day, after putting aside enough to feed the donkey and keep it healthy and for cart maintenance.  He also makes a daily contribution of SDG 20 (£2.30) to the water committee.

    The donkey cart contributed by the project and managed by the village Water Committee

    Adam is so pleased about how things are changing for him and his family. He can now help his neighbours by supplying water for them.  His family learned how to keep chickens and have bought six chickens and one cockerel and are now breeding hens.  The eggs were great for the children and the rest are sold at the local market. His daughters look after the chickens, clean the house, and cook for the family.

    One of the three latrine blocks constructed by the project in the village

    The family works as a team, Adam’s elder daughter attended the farm training facilitated by the project and is now starting to cultivate her own small home farm, making use of the availability of water and the donkey’s manure to improve the fertility of the soil on her farm for increased crop production.  Neighbours are now coming to find out how they farm and they help others whenever possible, so the family, their neighbours and the community are all better off.

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  • Making the invisible Eco-Warriors; the informal Waste Pickers, visible


    April 24th, 2017

    I see few of them every morning; first while going for my walk and then while going to my office. They come to the locality little early before the municipal authorized waste pickers come for the waste collection so as they can segregate the reusable items beforehand, collect those and then can sell it to the kabadiwala. I am talking about the “informal waste pickers” who play a big role in keeping the city and neighborhood clean, but don’t get the recognition they deserve. Bhubaneswar generates around 600 tonnes of solid waste per day and the city is providing habitation to around 1500 numbers of waste pickers and their families.

    Some research report shows 90% of discarded recyclable PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) in India gets recycled, ahead of countries with formalized waste management. Most of these are collected by informal waste collectors who sell it to middlemen who then resell to recycling factories. In most of the cities the same business model is working.

    Go and meet few waste pickers you will clearly observe that lower caste or Dalits and other minorities are mostly performing this task. They belong to the most marginalized sections of the city. Most of them are uneducated and even their children perform the same task. And yes they are associated with dirt. The stray dogs bark at them and even the most of the city dwellers look at them differently.

    The misery is that they clean and appears dirty and we dirt the city and appear clean. Do not you think they do a great job !!! They need recognition for this job which they perform for their livelihood.  As most of them are not educated they are cheated by the middle man and sell their collected materials at a lesser price. As they are not into formal sector they perform the task without any safety gear and put their health at risk. I accept they do this job as per their own wish but from a different angle, they perform the task of the local municipality without being paid for that.

    We at Practical Action initiated a project among the children of the informal waste pickers few years back. And one component of that project was to formalize the informal waste workers and provide them with valid identity card so that they can take the benefit of the government schemes. I am not going to discuss the whole project achievement here, but the field team managed by a local NGO called as CCWD made tremendous efforts with technical support from Practical Action in influencing the municipality to recognize the work of the informal waste works. The project was funded by BVLF for 2 years.

    BMC Mayor Sri Ananta Narayan Jena handing over ID card to waste workers of Bhubaneswar

    When it came to the social security of the Informal waste workers, the state had no provisions for them and one of the major reason was, these waste workers were not identified in the labour category. We continued our advocacy for more than a year with taking up a lot of initiatives. We formed the ‘Abrajana Gotali Mahasangha’ the first of its kind formal union among the waste pickers of the city. A series of training programmes on different safety measures and awareness on getting their basic facilities from the municipality were organised. The union later took this up and went ahead to meet the municipal authorities along with the project staffs. After several meetings and approach, the authority finalized acknowledged the informal waste workers of the city and a process of identification was initiated.

    Deputy commissioner BMC Sri Srimanta Mishra among the waste workers with their ID cards

    The municipality agreed to provide valid identity card to the informal waste pickers and also some additional benefits in terms of safety and social security was assured. Though the project is over but a constant supervision has led to a number of 755 informal waste workers being provided with the identity card. They are now recognized as labours in other category and this makes them eligible to get benefits from various government schemes.

    Yet again, this number is not enough. This is the story of just one city. Odisha has more than 100 urban local bodies where we can find the similar set of people. This is high time, other municipalities and urban local bodies must consider the informal waste workers and provide them with the required social security and safety what they deserve.

    ( Download ‘LIFE DIGNIFIED’ a case study compendium on the said project here. )

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