Despite longstanding efforts, water and sanitation issues are albeit stumpy in India and urban poor are worst hit. They complement a deficient public water service at prohibitive 'coping' costs of average USD 0.67/day, or 35% of their income. Reportedly the problems of water and sanitation, responsive for 67% disease events, are vastly interlinked and also energy intensive in urban areas. Slums are located in low-lying and water-logged areas amid poor sanitary conditions and unhygienic surroundings. In this context, SAFE designed a program wherein renewable energy is the key to water and sanitation solution for the urban poor. Under the aegis of this program SAFE has launched two projects for providing safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation to marginal poor in urban slums named WASH-US (Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Urban Slums) in Kolkata and NEWS-UP (Nonconventional Energy in Water and Sanitation for Urban Poor) in north eastern India.
Both the WASH-US (Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Urban Slums) and NEWS-UP (Nonconventional Energy in Water and Sanitation for Urban Poor) projects provide solar powered water treatment plants which deliver 10,000 liters of drinking water complying with WHO standards on a 24X7 basis to the community through automated dispensing units. The integrated model has bio-sanitation components for providing a state-of-art sanitation facility based on microbial bio-digesters. These units are fed with wastewater enabling ‘zero’ discharge and near-zero water footprint intervention. Both projects cater to the needs of 15,000 urban poor people, improving their lifestyle and livelihoods by providing essential services, new economic opportunities and inclusive growth. The program has been supported by the World Bank and CSR funding from the HSBC Water Program.
The main objective of the program was to inculcate wise-use of water resources through community governance, and recovery through water harvesting, reuse and minimization of water wastage. The program institutionalizes state-of-art community sanitation with a clean and hygienic ambience to downsize the recurrence of diseases, especially for women and children, by empowering women water users in the community. It also ensures equitable access to facilities such as Bio-sanitation and water ATMs for automated dispensing of WHO standard water round the clock for the slum dwellers through a solar run water plant. Further, it ensures social entrepreneurships through revenue linked micro-utility services in the WASH sector as an alternative economic opportunity for the poor, while displaying low carbon initiatives to downscale climate impacts and create place-based adaptive mitigation through the coupling of renewable energy to the WASH sector.
The impact of the projects has been measured through strategic impact assessment based quantifiable studies on sociometry, economic evaluation (Cost Benefit analysis) and ecological audit. The impact assessment was designed for Water Quality, Accessibility, Space & Time, Participation and Equity. The perception of Change and Development in the community has also been explored. The resulting outcomes are the following:
The Marwar region of the Thar Desert in Western Rajasthan, India, is the most densely populated arid zone in the world. The region has the lowest water endowment in Rajasthan, while the State itself falls in a zone of extreme water scarcity in the world (World Economic Forum report 2009). Rainfall is sparse with an annual average of 200 mm, ground water is saline and unsuitable for drinking or agriculture. Over-reliance on centralized water supply undermined wisdom developed over centuries that helped desert communities adapt to climate variability. Centralized planning pushed this traditional knowledge to the margins of development processes, with the region now facing water shortages. About 51% of the total rural habitations in the region are not covered by the government’s water supply system, 16% partially covered whereas only 33% habitations are fully covered with optimum water supply (National Habitation Survey 2003). In this context, the project addressed the challenges of reviving traditional rainwater harvesting structures that had fallen into disuse, reducing open defecation, as well as removing and regenerating encroachments on common lands, which is essential to maintain the hydrological cycle.
The project is supported by JBF’s HSBC and demonstrates the benefits of a cost-effective integrated model to catalyze community action on multiple components of IWRM and achieve visible, sustainable and replicable impacts on drinking water availability, sanitation, health and environmental regeneration at village level. For this purpose, four model villages were developed to showcase the positive impacts brought by the activities of the project.
The main project objectives and activities were the following:
The project applies a three-pronged approach to sanitation by using the village-level fund into which groups of 10 individual households make a 50% contribution upfront to gain financial support of the remaining 50% from JBF. Such an approach embeds individual efforts within a group that offers mutual support and motivation, while using the community level forum to provide additional motivation, support and ensure transparency and accountability in the use of funds.
The project has promoted resource-oriented or ecological sanitation concepts as a route to sustainable sanitation in Africa. To achieve this objective it developed and introduced integrated low cost technologies for sustainable sanitation, as well as community-based management concepts. These concepts were applied in four cities in East-Africa, namely Arba Minch (Ethiopia), Nakuru (Kenya), Arusha (Tanzania) and Kitgum (Uganda). Several types of toilets that allow reuse have been constructed in private houses, institutions and schools. Also, the project developed Strategic Sanitation and Waste Plans (SSWPs) for the four pilot cities in order to initiate a process of integration of such aspects in the towns' agendas. These provided examples for a generally applicable and adaptable framework for the development of participatory strategic sanitation.
The overall objectives of the ROSA project were:
The project started in October 2006 and ended in March 2010. The consortium comprised 13 partners from Europe and Africa. Main features included the following:
In general the research activities within ROSA contributed to improving the competitiveness of resource-oriented sanitation concepts in peri-urban areas. Institutional-organizational innovations resulted from operation and management strategy development. Technical innovation was associated to the solutions implemented in the project, as well as from the integration of the resource-oriented sanitation concepts into local settlement structures. Finally financial-economic matters were tackled analyzing in details costs associated to the construction and installation of the identified solutions, as well as operation and maintenance costs.
At the end of the projects the pilots were in operation in all cities. Most implemented solutions have been successfully adopted by the local communities. Beneficiaries spread information of the new options to other areas. As a result private persons as well as organizations got interested and built sanitation systems with their own resources (ROSA provided technical support only). Awareness regarding the need of operation and maintenance was created in all pilot cities. Large-scale implementation of on-site sanitation was launched in Arba Minch and Nakuru.