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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

India: Low-Cost Toilets Change the Face of Bhopals Slums

June 2006

Improvements in Bhopals landscape are now more striking than ever as the citys slum areas get a much needed facelift. Local communities and an NGOs efforts have proven fruitfulnewly built toilets and tap stands in households and schools allay the practice of open field defecation. NEW LOW-COST TOILETS AND TAP STANDS FOR CITY SLUMS Fourteen-year-old Asha Gaur is preparing for a marriage ceremony and is colored in turmeric the color for the occasion. But before leaving, she checks the latest addition to her home at Satnami Nagar, one of the oldest slums in Bhopal. She has a new toilet. Change came to Ashas locality and five other slums when Aarambh, a local nongovernment organization supported by WaterAid, began helping residents to build low-cost toilets. Households contributed 2,000 Indian rupees (approximately US$46) and Aarambh gave each family a toilet bowl and four bags of cement. Most of the people who opted for these toilets did the construction work themselves to keep the costs down, says Aarambh Project Coordinator Deepankshi Dighekar. Aarambh has also supported toilet construction in schools whose facilities were unusable because of poor upkeep. So far, they have built about 54 toilets. They have also helped to improve water supply at Satnami Nagar by building more tap stands. Before, people who start fetching water at noon had to wait until evening for their water containers to be filled. Now, the area has 24-hour water supply, and all puddles around the tap stands have been covered by a concrete platform.

SATNAMI NAGAR: ONCE A WASTE LAND Satnami Nagar in Bhopal was not a pretty sight. Before the arrival of low-cost toilets, Asha says, My friends and I would wait until it was dark to go to the nearby waste land half a kilometer away. Most of the time, we would have to wade through filth and always feared snakes. It was terrible during the rainy season. Dighekar remembers, It was difficult to convince people to stop open defecation. Since sewage pipes were not laid properly in some previous attempts, people didnt know what to do with full pits and were not willing to try something else. Even school toilets were not much of an improvement. We had complained that the toilets were very dirty, but nobody would listen, adds Asha, who studies at the government girls' school at Piplani. RAISING AWARENESS, CONVINCING PEOPLE It took Aarambh almost six months of house-to-house canvassing until one resident, Baby Nanda, decided to have a toilet in her house. It was a problem to go out and find space in the filth and with the city growing everyday, there was no privacy anywhere. Aarambhs project was supported by both the locals and the municipal council, which even mobilized its workers for laying down pipes in some areas. Now, Aarambhs hygiene educators organize regular awareness sessionssometimes street plays and even songs for students and their families on the value of cleanliness. I now know we have to wash our hands after going to the toilet, says Afsar Ali, a student. Prior to installation of the new connection, the 12,000 residents of Satnami Nagar relied on a lone tubewell. Now, our family saves much time because we have both toilet and water, says Baby Nanda, who now spends her spare time convincing her neighbors to get their own toilets. We wanted to have toilets but did not have the money for building them, but now help is available.

_____________________________ Based on the article of Sushmita Malaviya, Asia Water Wire journalist The views expressed in this article are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms.

*This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in June 2006: The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADBs member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADBs Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.