Challenges to toilet adoption in rural India

Name of Student: 
Prof. N. C. Narayanan
Project Type: 
M. Tech Project -II (TD 696)
Waste and Sanitation
India had been unable to achieve Millennium Development Goal target to halve the population without access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water by 2015 even though there had been different sanitation programs by the government. Adoption and use of toilets in India is low despite potential benefits of sanitation on economic, social and health aspects This study compares government financed Swatch Bharat Abhiyan with two other programs of sanitation with different approaches. The first program is NGO facilitated community driven sanitation program by Gram Vikas in Ganjam district of Orissa, which is one of the early sanitation programs with high success rate in India. The second program is the Coal India Ltd Corporate Social Responsibility project in Purulia, West Bengal which is being implemented by the field team of The Energy Research Institute (TERI) NGO. All the three locations were visited and immersive study was conducted using qualitative methods to create case studies for comparison amongst different models. Semi structure interviews, in depth interviews and Focus Group Discussions were used for data collection. The factors identified for differential adoption of toilets are majorly socio-cultural factors, design factors, economic factors and behavioural factors. These factors include social and cultural norms about gender and caste, design parameters like materials used and finishing, financing for the toilets construction and maintenance and prior exposure to toilets or behaviour change processes. Key observations include the role of supporting ecosystem for sustainability of toilet usage and the main finding is that behaviour supersedes design as a determinant of toilet adoption. It was identified that water is the blind spot in the spread of sanitation in India that needs to be fixed. The role of technology related awareness was found to be important for the sustainability of twin pit toilet design. The recommendations to Swatch Bharat Abhiyan include acceptance of slippages to open defecation in ODF verified habitats. The flexibility in toilet design is also expected to improve the toilet adoption and inclusion of water as a precursor for toilet building will increase the usage of toilets. The role of community institutions have also been identified and needs to be promoted with the existing institutions like Anganwadi or Water and Sanitation Committees.