Sanitation projects under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should follow a total value
chain approach like any business project. The focus should be on planning, acting,
assessing and reviewing the projects in order to achieve sustainable excellence.

By S. Ravishankar

 

Clean and safe sanitation is an important necessity for health and hygiene. The impact can be transformational,as it has been brought out in many studies across countries. No public health intervention in the past 200 years has done more to save lives and improve health in the world’s wealthy nations than clean and safe sanitation initiatives. Sanitation is a serious issue in rural as well as urban India. Keeping the past history of sanitation campaigns in mind, the Central Government has made a nationwide programme to clean up India and eliminate open defecation by 2019. The Prime
Minister under one of his key policy objectives of “improved national sanitation” has initiated a concerted move towards implementing a Total Sanitation Plan (TSP) by 2019 under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The programme has been initiated with building of a large number of sanitation facilities (toilets) in the schools across the nation to inculcate clean sanitation practices in the young minds.

While creation of such facilities is the first step in the entire process, it is also equally important to ensure regular utilisation of facilities by the intended beneficiaries and also their sustainability over time so that such massive efforts and investments do not become one time events with limited benefits. Sustainability of such facilities is dependent upon construction quality for durability, awareness among the users about needs and standards of maintenance, availability of adequate quantity of water for clean maintenance, etc.

Clean Action and Assessment Group (CAAG), a not-for-profit organization set up in April 2015, has been playing a pivotal rolesince its inception, in making the Clean India and Total Sanitation campaign of the government, a sustainable one. CAAG’s mission is to create a sustainable model of excellence in all socially-oriented projects (Figure 1).

The strategy for achieving excellence also depends on the approach undertaken towards such socially-oriented projects. CAAG strongly believes that these projects should follow a total value chain approach like in any business project. In this approach, the focus would be on planning, acting, assessing and reviewing the projects in order to achieve sustainable excellence (Figure 2).

During the last two years, CAAG has been partnering with corporate organisations that have funded construction of a huge number of sanitation facilities in schools to ensure long-term success of their campaign. CAAG’s partnership model includes extensive visits to these sanitation facilities through a welltrained survey team and making an on-the-ground assessment of the availability, functioning, maintenance and utilization of these
facilities by students. Some of the initiatives undertaken by CAAG in the recent past and the key findings include:

Assessment Survey of Toilet Availability, Functioning and Utilization

Under this initiative, CAAG has assessed more than 1,500 toilets constructed under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The primary aim was to make a detailed and independent assessment of the availability of physical facilities, the cleanliness and functioning of the toilets, maintenance of the toilets and response time for undertaking repair work, overall utilisation and satisfaction. Based on all these responses, an overall composite index was
derived and the schools in each of the district were ranked/ categorized (A, B, C and D) based on the overall composite score. The ranking based on composite score gave some pointers on what actions need to be taken and in which schools in order to improve the functioning of toilets and enhancing utilization. CAAG recommends the following actions to make this campaign a sustainable one, making clean and hygienic habits as integral part of the lives of the students and the community.

• Investment in these sanitation facilities should be immediately accompanied by periodical assessment of their performance and utilisation. Such an assessment every six months for more than two years will ensure that the local level issues and challenges are properly assessed and solutions
provided in order to make the project a long-term success.

Figure 1: Social Projects: Sustainable Model of Excellence

• Behavioural change is another aspect that needs to be brought about in villages both in urban and rural areas, not only among students but also across all households. A Comprehensive Awareness Programme needs to be undertaken in the schools and villages wherein students face issues in usage of toilets.
• After ensuring high degree of success, a publication should be brought out on the success of the campaign in various locations/ states and shared among stakeholders at local-, state- and central-level and in various important forums in order to make it a mission.

Rural Sanitation Survey (Survey of clean villages)

In 2016, CAAG undertook an extensive survey of the award winning villages in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, which brought out the critical success factors that had contributed to the success of those clean villages and sustainability of such initiatives. Some of the
lessons learnt are:
• A strong leadership with an active interest in promoting sanitation was at the heart of success and sustainability of such campaigns Though there was initial resistance, the commitment of district and local leadership ensured that an entire block containing about 28 Gram Panchayats (GPs) became open defecation free (ODF) within a few months.

Figure 2: Social Projects: Strategies for achieving Excellence

• The initiative’s success can also be largely attributed to the campaign design, which addressed all critical components such as institutional arrangement, communication, capacity building, phasing, monitoring and rewards, as our research team found.

Some of the other factors include:
• Communication and outreach to reach out to households through a sustained campaign.
• Targeting the community rather than individuals in order to reach out to everyone in the village.
• A campaign on this scale requires intensive capacity building programmes targeting different stakeholders who acted as ambassadors of sanitation and hygiene.
• The other major factor for success is the monitoring strategy, which focused on outcome in terms of ODF status rather than output which is number of toilets constructed.
• Rewards and Recognition: For many, the very notion of becoming an ODF community and receiving the associated recognition was sufficient motivation to work hard towards the goal.
• ‘Hand-holding’ approach adopted by the implementing machinery ensured that almost any obstacle they faced would be overcome with community support.
• Basic issues like water availability need to be addressed upfront before the launch of the project.

Sustainability of campaigns like Total Sanitation Campaign and Clean Villages under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan depends on efficient and effective implementation, periodical impact assessment, continuous awareness campaigns to bring about irreversible behavioural changes and commitment
of local-level leadership and opinion-makers. If CAAG’s experience is anything to go by, these factors lay at the foundation of all successful socially-oriented projects. Such an approach to the sanitation and cleanliness campaign of the Government of India will go a long way in ensuring sustainable success of the campaign. No doubt, it will be truly transformational.

—The writer is the President of CAAG