India Interior

Pooling in to usher change

Usha Rai | Updated on March 23, 2018 Published on March 23, 2018

Sanitary spaces People pay for maintenance Usha Rai   -  Christopher Wilton-Steer

Community Trusts manage sanitation in the slums of Patna


The buzz words in the development sector today are sanitation and toilets. In a top down approach collectors and government officials scramble to outdo each other and win laurels. However, the most meaningful sanitation projects are those where the community takes responsibility, pays for water and maintenance of the toilet facility.

In the urban slum of Lalu Nagar, Danapur block of Patna, is one such model comprehensive sanitation project that is worth replication.

The slum is 25 years old and was given to landless Muslim labour by covering a ditch and allotting land to 33 families for one room temporary tenements. There were just two hand pumps catering to the needs of about 400 residents.

The euphoria of getting land in their own name soon wore off as the area got water logged, the hand pumps malfunctioned, toilets with broken doors overflowed with filth. Hardly any house had electricity and diarrohea and bouts of fever and sickness were a recurring phenomenon.

Since the Aga Khan Foundation (India) was running an education programme in the slum, the people of Lalu Nagar sought help for improved sanitation and supply of drinking water. In 2015, AKF initiated the slum improvement project by forming a seven member Trust, six from the slum and one from the Foundation. Each house was numbered and discussions were held with groups of men, women, adolescent boys and girls to understand their requirements. Though the residents wanted personal toilets, in the absence of space in their tenements they settled for community toilets. The 23’ by 10’ land reserved for a community centre in Lalu Nagar was given for the toilet facility and the necessary permissions obtained from the government.

It took just a couple of months to change the look of the colony. The Trust was registered and took charge of maintenance of public toilets, management of water and solid waste and collection of user fees, fixed at ₹450 per family per month. From this amount they met the cost of electricity for running water pumps. Water is available for four hours a day (two hours in the morning and two in the evening) for the daily usage including drinking water to homes

The male residents of Lalu Nagar are daily wage labourers, run hand carts or ply rickshaws. The women are domestic helpers. Most children attend school.

The main toilet facility is a two storey structure, with three toilets and two bathing rooms on the ground floor for men and three toilets and two bathing rooms on the first floor for women. Hand washing facility on each floor is outside the toilets. The women’s section has an incinerator where sanitary pads can be disposed off. The four older toilets were renovated and are used by senior citizens.

Classes on menstrual hygiene and sanitation were conducted for adolescents of 10 to 18 years by AKF. Heena Parveen and Jeeva Parveen, students of Class IX, were elated with the new facilities, particularly the incinerator. “The incinerator and toilets have given us privacy to deal with menstrual hygiene”, they point out. The sweeper reports at12 noon sharp every day and Mohammed Nasiruddin, the caretaker, ensures cleanliness and keeps a record of money paid by the residents, often in small installments.

Community participation in the project was cemented with each family giving a security deposit of ₹1,000 for repairs and emergencies. Of the ₹33,000 raised, ₹3,000 was spent on laying a network of pipes for water. Each house has a water connection and supply is regulated. Each house has also been given blue and green dustbins for disposing of wet and dry garbage. “Our homes, which were worth just ₹10,000 per unit are now worth ₹50,000,” he says.

Babli Suman, AKF’s development coordinator for the project, says though Lalu Nagar is the show piece, comprehensive sanitation work is on in 10 slum colonies of Phulwarisharief and Danapur. The Foundation is also working on health and hygiene in 100 primary schools.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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Published on March 23, 2018

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