The Alliance is currently involved with a number of projects aimed at ensuring adequate access to sanitation facilities throughout India. In the past five years, the Alliance has renovated or built over 800 community toilets, for a total of over 16,000 additional seats.
The toilet blocks constructed by the Alliance have special features which makes them different from the toilet blocks constructed by the municipality. First, there is community participation at every level – designing, constructing and maintenance. Second, the toilet block is ensured to be connected to the main sewer line with access to adequate water and electricity. Third, there are separate entrances and areas for men and women, and a separate squatting area for children. Fourth, a care-taker is appointed by the community to take care of the maintenance of the toilet block. Fifth, there is an overhead and if needed underground water tank. Finally, our model is much cheaper and more affordable for the community, as we have monthly family passes which cost Rs.20-25 per household, irrespective of the number of family members or the number of times they use it. In the past and in other toilet blocks, everyone had to pay per use and there was no family pass as such. This made the toilets expensive and at times unaffordable to the poor communities. Income is also generated from passers-by who pay per use, at a rate of Rs.1/use.
Demonstration toilet blocks are designed, constructed and maintained with community involvement, with experienced Federations providing skills training and support to newer groups. Toilets showcase good design standards and innovations, including proper light and ventilation, separate children’s toilets and a caretaker’s room. Many also double as a community meeting space.
Community-built toilets work because they are affordable, and stay well -maintained because families have a stake in the process and pool resources to pay for a caretaker. These community -led sanitation projects provide desperately needed, clean and safe sanitation facilities, improving health, productivity, safety and quality of life. They also give Mahila Milan skills and confidence to take up further construction projects, explore solutions for other basic needs and sustain negotiations with authorities.
Examples of Past and ongoing projects
The Alliance began working in a significant way on community sanitation in slums of Pune with the Pune Municipal Corporation in 1999. Within a year, we constructed more than 10,000 seats in community toilet blocks benefiting at least 500,000 slum dwellers. This was the first time an Indian city achieved such scale in slum sanitation. Equally important was the mode of implementation: a precedent-setting partnership between the municipality, NGOs and community-based organizations. The Corporation provided land, capital costs, water and electricity, while NGOs and CBOs designed, constructed and maintained the community toilets. Traditionally, the government builds toilets without community participation, resulting in poor quality construction, a lack of water and electricity supply, and the absence of proper maintenance, setting off a wasteful cycle of demolition and reconstruction. We have seen substantial improvements in community-based sanitation and related policies and programs, and the program in Pune set an excellent precedent for success.
The Pune demonstration also helped the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) begin its slum sanitation program under the World Bank-assisted Mumbai Sewage Disposal Project (MSDP). In 2001, the Alliance won tenders for constructing 211 toilet blocks with 4000 toilet seats, benefiting at least 200,000 people, under the first phase of MSDP, and in the second phase, the Alliance will construct 150 toilet blocks benefiting over 150,000 people. Of the 150 toilet blocks, 37 have been constructed so far. As a continuation of MSDP, the Alliance has now been contracted to construct 120 toilet blocks under MSDP III.
Under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan toilet scheme of the central government, where the goal is to make Mumbai open-defecation free, SPARC was contracted to construct toilet blocks in 10 cities of Maharashtra. As of March 2011, 289 toilet blocks have been constructed.
Between 1986 and 1996, the Alliance constructed 60 community toilet blocks in Mumbai, Pune, Kanpur , This work evolved into the Zero Open Defecation campaign that the Alliance is promoting across the country. Based on the Alliance's work, a National Task Force for Sanitation was created in 2005 to promote the Zero Open Defecation campaign nationwide.
As peer exchanges have given Alliance leaders from dozens of cities the opportunity to see the toilets built in Mumbai and Pune, more and more communities have begun to work with municipal officials to build community toilets. Large-scale community sanitation projects have been completed in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Individual toilet construction has also taken place in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu with the assistance of loans from the Alliance.