Tag Archives: urban sanitation

“Do it differently: Toilets are not enough to achieve sanitation, India must reinvent the waste business”

In a recent article in The Times of India, Sunita Narain brings up the tried and true dilemma of how throwing new toilets at a city, without an existing waste treatment infrastructure, is not a valid answer to its poor sanitation problems.

"This is because we often confuse toilets with sanitation. But the fact is that toilets are mere receptacles to receive waste; when we flush or pour water, the waste flows into a piped drain, which could be either connected, or not, to a sewage treatment plant (STP). This STP could be working, or not. In the majority of cases, human excreta (our household waste) is not safely disposed but instead discharged, untreated into the nearest river, lake or a drain."

Indeed! We’ve mentioned multiple times on this very site that simply manufacturing and installing toilets, doesn’t answer the call for better sanitation. In the end, any sanitation solution we create needs a corresponding way to deal with the waste we humans create. Be it, gigantic sewage treatment plants or basic septic tanks, we need a place for our waste go instead of our rivers and streams.

Despite this common sense though, we still need efficient ways to remove our waste and transport it into receptacles safely for treatment. For many countries, retrofitting or building new sewerage systems in towns and cities is disruptive and cost-prohibitive, to the point of impossibility.

So, as Narain wrote so well about, Governments are starting to see the value of working within the existing infrastructure.

"Governments are beginning to realise that yesterday’s system can be re-engineered to work for today and tomorrow. They now recognize the fact that septic tanks are decentralised waste collection systems. Instead of thinking of building an underground sewerage network – that is never built or never completed – it would be best to think of these systems as the future of urban sanitation. After all, we have gone to mobile telephony without the landline. Individual septic tanks could be the way to achieve full sanitation solutions."

It’s important remember: sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Many times you just have to find different ways to use it.

We encourage you to read Sunita Narain’s article. You can get to it by clicking right here.

“Forget the mug. Toilet paper is on a roll in India.”

As the world changes economically and more and more sanitation options become readily available to everyone, there’s been an increase in the use of paper-based products when cleaning yourself while using the bathroom.

An article in Quartz speaks on this topic and the effect it is having specifically in India.

“Indians may slowly be undergoing a whole new round of “toilet training”: Toilet wipes, diapers and sanitary napkins are flying off the shelves in Asia’s third largest economy.”

Several things are causing this shift, but chief amongst them appear to be:

  • Growth in disposable income.
  • Education and awareness of these products (particularly with sanitation protection for women and girls).
  • Simple convenience.
  • Companies seeing a business opportunity and making their products more affordable.

“The tissue and hygiene segment in India is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 76% till 2020, according to Euromonitor, a market research firm. The market will, thus, grow from the current Rs5,780 crore ($870 million) to over Rs10,000 crore ($1.5 billion) by 2020.”

That is incredible growth and interesting to observe, particularly in cultures like India that have dealt with sanitation in a certain way for centuries. In many cases they are quite stuck in their ways.

As we work towards solutions to address the global sanitation problem at large, it’s heartening to see that there is always the potential for old ideologies to shift.

It’s great piece with lots of additional information and graphs to back it all up. Click here to read the article in it’s entirety.

The East and Central Africa City Development Forum


Myles ElledgeOur very own Myles Elledge will be speaking at the East and Central Africa City Development Forum tomorrow (05/24/2016)!

During the event he’ll be taking part in a session on Water, Sanitation and Urban Health, where he’ll be giving a talk on innovation in sanitation solutions.

Read more about the event here.

“Can a community ever be truly open defecation free? Is it actually a meaningful indicator?”


For many people on this planet, the idea of pooping outside in the open is disgusting and embarrassing.

For many more people, it is the only option.

In a recent article posted in The Guardian, they feature comments from Dr. Robert Chambers, a world renowned expert on CLTS (community led total sanitation), on the impact that WASH programming can have on a community when it is trying to become open defecation free (ODF).

His answers are eye-opening in that while he acknowledges the obviously positive implications of a community becoming completely ODF, he also stresses that the introduction, verification, and corresponding reward of CLTS is equally, if not more, important.

“A danger with counting ODF communities is generating misleading data. Whenever there are awards for ODF, there are dangers of distortion. In India, there was extreme exaggeration in the Nirmal Gram Puraskar. Many communities were declared ODF and it wasn’t true. A study showed that hardly any of the communities were actually ODF

There were rewards, huge competition, and lax verification. The numbers generated were nonsense. This led Indian authorities to crack down. One of the problems is the inflation of figures that later have to be scaled down, which can be embarrassing.”

Indeed, for something so life-changing and noble as CLTS, it is apparent that a delicate balance needs to be struck. A balance that is solely centered not on reward or competition, but one that is based on learning the benefits of what CLTS can bring to your community and, in turn, wanting the same for your surrounding communities.

It’s also good to see the article touch on verification. False or lax verification of a community becoming ODF, will only pull existing efforts in the wrong direction, derailing or clouding hopes, and leading communities to wonder what the point of the CLTS is in the first place.

It’s a great piece filled with real complications that are involved in current CLTS efforts, as well as the clear benefits of accurate CLTS and what it can do for a community if it is handled correctly.

Click here to read the article in its entirety on The Guardian.

“In India, ending open defecation requires more than just behavior change”

In a recent piece by Alys Francis on devex.com she goes over the challenges of ending open defecation in India via behavioral change. We cover this issue at length on our site, mostly because it is becoming the primary focus (and obstacle) of a lot of sanitation projects in developing countries around the world.

India in particular is a complex place to change behavior because of the variety of social systems that are currently embedded in society. Community led santation has shown lots of promise in many countries because of its localized approach catered only to people living in specific effected areas. But, as Francis’ findings point out, that approach as successful as it has been, won’t work everywhere for everyone. It’s complicated:

“Designing behavior change programs is particularly difficult in India, according to Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman of Feedback Foundation, which runs several such endeavors funded by the World Bank. There are multiple languages, religions, castes and tribes, and no single method works for them all, he said.

“What might trigger a Hindu majority population, won’t work for Muslim,” he noted.”

It’s a great read with some fascinating observations. Particularly of the findings/success that UNICEF had recently in a district in West Bengal. Click here to read the entire article Devex.com.