How we halved open defecation in a New Delhi slum in a year

With 1.1 billion people relieving themselves in the open, India accounts for more than 59%, of open defecation worldwide (source: WHO). Open defecation is the leading cause of diarrhea and worm infections, which result in more than half a million children in our country dying annually. Even of those who survive, many are physically and cognitively stunted for the rest of their lives (source: WHO). According to World Bank, India loses 2.4 Trillion Rupees each year due to poor and inadequate sanitation conditions (Source: World Bank) While over 1.2 million of Delhi’s slum population is dependent on community toilets, only 55% of this infrastructure is usable (Source: Action Aid), leaving half a million people defecating in the open.

Sattva_Insights_India-slum

To truly understand the problem at its core, my team in Enactus – an international student-led social entrepreneurship body – studied the demand and supply factors of public sanitation. We learnt that:

1) People in slums avoid using toilets, given their filthy state. This, along with age old misconceptions, leads to rampant open defecation. Lack of ownership towards community toilets provokes vandalism, rendering them defunct.
2) Currently, the community toilets are developed by the government and then the operationalisation of these toilets is handled by maintenance firms who file a tender for it. The toilet maintenance firms face shortages of trained staff resulting in substandard operations.
3) Despite efforts by the govt to expand infrastructure, funds end up being utilised for reconstruction of defunct complexes.

Seeing an opportunity to work on systemic failures, four colleagues and I created Project Raahat in 2016.

Raahat has a twofold mission – to eradicate open defecation and provide safe sanitation to urban slum communities by innovating in management of community toilet complexes and sensitising people on good sanitary practices

We took our model and pitched it to different Urban Local Bodies and Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) who finally gave us a pilot site in Sultanpuri, a slum cluster in North Delhi. Our intervention comprised the following:

Entrepreneurial Model: To overcome the problem of substandard maintenance our team developed an entrepreneurial model. We selected two unemployed yet aspiring individuals from the community as caretakers. Through extensive and continuous training, we equipped them with the knowledge of plumbing and cleaning practices, interpersonal skills and bookkeeping.

Revenue Model: Further, as mandated by the Government, a nominal fee is charged from the toilet users which forms the income of the entrepreneur after allowing for maintenance expenses and reserves.

Customised Sensitisation: We customised sensitisation activities to suit different demographics. For example, we gamified the topic with hopscotch and relay races to educate children on proper use of toilets. We created a own fictional character called Raahi, who became a mascot for propagating sanitation amongst slum children. Our campaigns for women covered topics such as healthy pregnancy and menstrual hygiene. Aesthetic modifications were made using wall art based on popular Bollywood and cartoon themes to encourage people to use toilets.

Payment Alternatives: Pay and use toilets are characterised by long waiting lines and the compulsion of having to pay each time, deterring people from using them. To resolve this, we introduced the Raahat Suvidha ticket. These tickets can be purchased in bundles at a discount and offer user convenience and flexibility.

Security: By employing nightguards and installing surveillance mechanisms, the toilet facility was operational 24/7. Women no longer have to relieve themselves in the open in the darkness of night.
Data Analysis: To effectively monitor usage levels of the toilet complex, we installed a people counter which measures footfall and segregating the population according to demographics. When usage statistics decline, remedial action is taken by the entrepreneurs in the form of targeted sensitisation to ensure continued usage.

Exit Strategy: We defined benchmarks in terms of number of users and rate of open defecation. Once these were surpassed, all responsibilities of complex management were transferred to the entrepreneurs.

With a baseline and endline done by DUSIB, Sultanpuri showcased a reduction in open defecation from 70% to 35% in a year, a first-time achievement in any slum cluster of Delhi. We were also lauded by Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Mr. Manish Sisodia.

We developed a Standard Operating Procedure with DUSIB for all maintenance firms of Delhi. We have been consulting these firms on such maintenance practices too. Rs 9.8 million worth medical expenditures have been avoided through our intervention.

Key Takeaways

1) Giving ownership of sanitation to the community itself by including a community member for maintenance and care taking
2) Developing the area as a community space to shatter the image of a “dingy dirty place” to a place where you can visit without any fear or discomfort
3) Helping sustained usage of the facility by reducing the per usage cost and using data analytics to solve area specific problems

3 years later, Raahat has come a long way. We are 40 members strong, running 15 community toilet complexes in Delhi. We are now working with the Andhra Pradesh government to run our programme through government volunteers.

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For data on households in India that have access to a toilet, look at our data here.

Bobbymon George

Bobbymon heads Assessments in Sattva and is based in our Bangalore office.

He has delivered evaluation assignments across sectors and with key CSR accounts such as ABG, JPMorgan, ACC, Philips, L&T Infotech, L&T Financial Services, Dell and Fidelity. He comes with over 13 years of experience in the development sector, across programme design, implementation and Monitoring and Evaluation. He has led Programme Delivery, Curriculum Development, setting up Monitoring & Evaluation frame works and tools in non-profits.

He is also a master facilitator/trainer in Life Skills.

Garima Goel

Garima is part of the Transformative Advisory team in Delhi, working with Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) on the District Transformation Product for 25 districts.

Before Sattva she co-founded a sanitation enterprise called “Project Raahat” which is working in the field of urban sanitation in partnership with the government and is currently operational in 3 states. She represented India and Raahat in London and become ‘Enactus World Champion 2017’, chosen among 36 countries. She has also worked with MPs under the MPLAD programme and ran projects in their adopted villages regarding menstrual hygiene and community development. At Sattva she has worked with Central Square Foundation in landscaping the EdTech industry on a programme to drive efficacy and advocacy for country wide implementation by the government. She is committed to inculcating a bottom up method in development solutions to make them community driven.

Garima did her Bachelors of Management Studies from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, with a major in Finance.

Lakshmi Sethuraman

Lakshmi currently leads the sales function at Sattva. She has been with Sattva since 2010 and has led a diverse set of projects during this time working extensively with leaders of social organisations in building and scaling their operations sustainably. She has also worked with key CSR clients of Sattva in designing, implementing impactful programmes.

Prior to Sattva, Lakshmi has worked with the Manipal Group, Jubilant Retail and ITC Hotels across sales, business development and strategy functions. She holds a PGDM from T.A.Pai Management Institute.

Anita Kumar

Anita Kumar leads the Strategic Initiatives group at Sattva. She has over a decade of experience in both the private sector and the development sector and has worn various hats – employee in a large corporate, freelancer, and entrepreneur. She was with Procter & Gamble for five years in Sales & then Go-to-market Strategy for All-India. In 2009 she shifted to the development sector to use her skills to solve more complex social issues, and was consulting with different social organisations through her firm InsightsApplied including the Tamil Nadu Government, and various Foundations. For about 1.5 years, she consulted full-time with one of the large skill training organisations in the country helping them across a range of activities including mission alignment, impact measurement, sales strategy and partnerships.

Last year she co-founded a social enterprise which used technology to bridge information gaps about learning and livelihoods for disadvantaged youth. Anita is a graduate of IIM Calcutta (2004) and has an MSc in Development Management from LSE.

Sumit Joshi

As part of the Sattva Leadership, Sumit Joshi heads the Consulting Services practice in New Delhi, India. Sumit manages the thematic programmes of several international foundations and leads the CSR and sustainability advisory of multi-national corporates. He has designed and scaled solutions on micro-entrepreneurship, livelihoods, access to safe water, integrated village development, and organisational development.

Prior to Sattva, Sumit traversed various roles in his career from consulting for the United Nations and working for multinationals to running his own social enterprise. His company APART Education trained thousands of young graduates and improved the employability skills and quality of Indian workforce.

Sumit is an alumnus of the University of Oxford where he studied MBA as a Skoll Scholar.

SAFEBillion – Solutions for Arsenic & Fluoride Elimination

Extending access to safe drinking water is one of the major developmental challenges facing India. Approximately 85% of the rural population, comprised of more than 700 million people, are dependent on groundwater for drinking. With an increasing trend of excessive dependence on ground water, ground water scarcity and contamination are now a major concern.

Arsenic and Fluoride Contamination in India

Arsenic is a highly toxic element and a known carcinogen, and is present in high levels in groundwater across several states in India. Since the early 2000s, there have been multiple reports of contamination in ground water sources across the country, but most prominently along the populous Ganga-Meghna-Brahmaputra stretch. The WHO has labelled it “the largest mass poisoning in recorded history”.

Of the 85 million tons of natural fluoride deposits on the earth’s crust, it is estimated that almost 12 million are in India. High fluoride contamination has already been observed across 22 States and more than 200 districts, potentially putting 60 million people at risk. Consumption of fluoride contaminated water causes Fluorosis, which is a crippling disorder– resulting in irreversible deformities and illnesses.

Technology Solutions

Although there are numerous technology solutions to these problems, many of them are expensive and/or ineffective at decreasing arsenic and fluoride levels in drinking water to acceptable levels. And while some solutions have proven to be effective in labs, few have been distributed in the field and even fewer appear to be sustainable in the long-term.

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs have developed two methods to remove arsenic and fluoride from drinking water, affordably and effectively. Electro-Chemical Arsenic Remediation (ECAR), an arsenic removal technique, uses a small amount of electricity to create rust in contaminated water. The rust binds to arsenic, which can then be removed from the water through settling and/or filtration. The second method, SAFR- Safe & Affordable Fluoride Removal Technology, uses minimally processed (dried/milled) bauxite ore as an inexpensive adsorbent for remediating fluoride contamination. Initial lab tests showed that fluoride remediation with the best-performing Guinea bauxite was ∼23–33 times less expensive than with activated alumina.

Both technologies have been designed community-backwards: they use materials that are locally sourced and affordable, highly effective, technically feasible and are robust in rural settings – they require minimal manpower to operate and maintain the system.

SAFEBillion – A consortium for providing safe drinking water at scale

Given the systemic nature of these problems, we believe it is imperative to work with multiple stakeholders, partners and a diverse set of organisations in order to achieve impact at scale. SAFEBillion is a consortium with the goal of solving the problem of Arsenic and Fluoride contamination in India.

The consortium consists of: Piramal Sarvajal, INREM Foundation and Sattva.

While technology forms only a part of the overall solution, there are multiple components required to make a solution work on the ground.

Sattva’s Solution will look at –

-The number of people with access to clean drinking water

-Improvement in health metrics

-New knowledge created

The goal is to take this technology from a lab solution to a field solution; and over the next three years field test, build and operate this technology and develop a model that can be scaled.

if you want to know more about the solution or partner with us please mail us at: impact@sattva.co.in

Aarti Mohan

Aarti brings strong expertise in creating, developing and publishing insights and content products centred around social impact and sustainability to reach diverse audiences. She has worked with multiple stakeholders in the social impact, sustainability, corporate, social sector, and the content, design, research and communications domain.
She has contributed to various publications including The Alternative, Women’s Web, Teacher Plus, Parent Circle and Deccan Chronicle. Aarti is a graduate from BITS Pilani and is an Alumnus of the IIM-Bangalore Management Program for Women Entrepreneurs (MPWE)

Rathish Balakrishnan

Rathish has extensive experience in conceptualising and implementing strategic large-scale solutions in social impact sector. He has contributed significantly at governmental policy level in education and skill development.
Rathish has also spent a decade working at SAP across their engineering, product management and corporate strategy divisions. He is a graduate from BITS Pilani.

Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy (Krishna)

Krishna looks at the overall growth and strategic direction of Sattva. He has worked with senior management teams of leading non-profits, social enterprises, corporate and funders to make their social impact initiatives sustainable and scalable.
He has also worked with Dell R&D, Longhouse Consulting and multiple non-profits, as well as been on the advisory board of non-profits and social organisations. He is a graduate from BITS Pilani and INSEAD.