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National foundation for India, New Delhi and health and development initiatives

Supported by: Arghyam foundation, Bengaluru

I had been elected by the community members as the caretaker of the community toilet in our sahi (Telenga Sahi, Ward-34). We collect Rs.1 from each user and that is how we meet the maintenance expenses and some part of it comes to me as my salary every month. Community toilet has been a boon to us, as open defecation was never a healthy practice.”

Says, Meena Kumari, (Telenga Sahi, Ward-34)

“Women and children were worst hit when there were no provisions of individual toilets in our village. “Nua bahu aau sana pila mananku besi problem hauthila ama sahi re”. HDI has been a great help to us. Open defecation Practices always encouraged conflicts between the communities. Introduction of individual toilets have helped us a lot.”- Says, Nafisa Begum, (Muslim Sahi, Ward-54) Above are just a few voices in urban areas out of the many but what unites them all is the sense of deprivation in their access to the very basic necessities of life- clean water, proper sanitation and healthy surrounding. The three factors are quintessential that can make or break human development. Access to clean water, proper sanitation and a healthy surrounding are just not human rights but an intrinsically important indicator of human progress. If not dealt efficaciously with determined efforts, with each passing day the situation can become graver, threatening life and livelihoods of the lesser privileged and then of the so called privileged. Clean surroundings, clean water and a clean toilet – as much as Cuttack, in Odisha is a thriving centre of trade and commerce, it lacked these three basic necessities. An exploratory survey was conducted in 2009 to understand why the city hadn't reached a better state of cleanliness. It found that 90% of the people followed open defecation, 99% threw garbage outside the house into open drains and canals and only 56% treated their drinking water.

People wished to improve their environment, the government had resources & policies to bring about a change but only key ingredient was missing - 'good' governance.

This is when National Foundation for India (NFI) along with Health and Development Initiatives and support from Aghyam Foundation came together to implement an idea to create a community-based water management, sanitation and waste disposal system, where the locals managed these important issues. The organisations believed that only when a project became self sustainable only when it went from a feeling of 'theirs' to 'ours'.


Reaching out to children by involving them in various activities ( Source: National Foundation of India) The first step was community mobilization - or the process to involve the locals to make them aware of the project. They conducted Informal meetings and discussions that not only involved influential people but also those who were typically left out of such types of discussions such as young girls, differently abled people and widows.

To involve children, they conducted competitions and games around the topics of sanitation and health. After talking to a wide range of people, the organisations selected local leaders at all levels. During all this, they also carried out sessions on personal hygiene, awareness and the importance of clean drinking water including talks by doctors to drive the message home. Only once the locals had somewhat bought in to the idea, did the actual ground work on water, sanitation and health begin. Defunct tubewells were made functional – people volunteered to provide manual labour – and new wells were dug after residents unanimously voted on their location. Existing water sources such as taps, stand posts were repaired. A pond near Swapneswar temple was renovated and people stopped defecating around it.

An old defunt community toilet was made functional after continuous follow up with the authorities by the local youth themselves. Its day to day operation and maintenance is now carried out by the community who has taken complete charge of its own asset! 2010 to June 1012 in Cuttack city of Odisha. The objective was “Strengthening participatory local self-governance and improving the quality of life of people through integrated water, sanitation and waste management interventions”. It was aimed at initiating a community centric governance process.

To achieve the goal of strengthening of community participation in managing water, sanitation and waste management, the activities included a variety of entry-point activities to mobilize various excluded sections of the community in poor neighbourhoods. Besides, model infrastructure in water, sanitation and waste disposal were identified and implemented in a participatory manner. Capacity building and awareness building activities targeted the community members to empower them with knowledge of water supply, sanitation options, and technological advances in solid and liquid waste management. Besides capacity and knowledge building, they were involved in diverse activities to enhance their confidence and self-esteem. The community was guided and supported to engage with the service providers, mainly with the ULB, to facilitate improved provision of infrastructure and services. The community prepared micro-plans by itself and accordingly undertook few activities itself and sought the support of the ULB in providing other services. The community was empowered to prepare plan for the locality and to take responsibility for provision of services by the ULB. This is opposed to the previous practice of complete dependence on the ULB for planning and implementing all services in the area without any involvement or role of the people.

While the community was motivated to engage with the service providers, the service providers in the ULB were also oriented and sensitized to take the community priorities, opinion and views into account while planning or implementing any infrastructure or service in any locality. However, capacity building of the ULB officials and elected representatives in integrated management of water and sanitation and in participatory decision making and implementation could not be carried out adequately. It was also realized that a larger level of campaign had to be taken up to motivate and train the ULB officials in working with the people and also in integrated management of facilities and services.

Community Leaders

Voluntary Sector Workers

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National Foundation for India
India Habitat Centre
Core 4A, Upper Ground Floor
Lodi Road, New Delhi 110 003, INDIA

 91-11-24641864, 24641865

 91-11-24648490, 24648491