Around 1.2 billion or a sixth of the Earth’s human population lives in India and about half of this billion defecates in the open. The present government has demonstrated its political will to make India Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2019 by launching the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in both urban and rural capacities. However, there seems to be a lack of coordination and cooperation among the stakeholders working in the sector. The India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) was formed with the objective of bringing all stakeholders in the sanitation field onto one platform where they can share information, learn from others, partner and collaborate.
Surfaces Reporter (www.surfaces.in) supports the initiatives toward better Sanitation and thus was keen to interact with Siddhartha Das who is leading ISC, to learn about developments so far and share with our keen readers from Bath & Tiles industry. Previously he has worked with Water Aid in New Delhi as the National Policy Manager. In UNICEF, he was providing leadership support at the national level for the implementation of the Link Workers Scheme. He has played a key role in planning and preparation for South Asian Conference for Sanitation. Mr. Das was also a Steering Committee member of End Water Poverty (EWP) which is the world’s largest global campaign on Sanitation.
We at India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) work to support the country’s sanitation strategy – currently under the Swachh Bharat Mission, but also to help guide some key frameworks around the entire sanitation value chain – Build, Use, Maintain and Treat (BUMT). This is about, moving away from merely the provision of toilets but bringing attention to use of constructed toilets, their maintenance and the treatment of the waste. It is important to note here that ISC is not an implementing body in itself; rather it facilitates implementation by bringing all the players together.
Therefore, it is primarily the Sanitation sector with the required integration with other sectors like water, health, education, etc.
At ISC we recognize that there are strong players who have expertise in implementation, capacity building, and are repositories of knowledge. We are also aware that there are donors and corporates interested in funding the sanitation sector. That is where ISC steps in – bringing different players together to share their learning and expertise, to collaborate and partner, to leverage each other’s strengths in different geographies, and to synergize wherever possible. We build on this wealth of experience for everyone to gain, and support mechanisms that make it easier for various stakeholders to engage in the sanitation space. ISC is therefore a platform to empower, to act as a catalyst, galvanize stakeholders enabling all players to do their job better and support Government in its Mission. Doing so will help build a sustainable sanitation ecosystem. ISC maintains its focus on both rural and urban fronts.
We work actively to identify bankable projects that corporate partners can fund, in collaboration with strong implementation partners, as well as the government. We use the Coalition as an advocacy platform with the government around critical areas of quality control, attention to toilet usage, treatment of faeces innovative ways to finance sanitation – household and district / municipal sanitation infrastructure which will ensure gender / class/caste inclusiveness.
We aim to create a strong marketplace where sanitation players can meet and collaborate, and also encourage sanitation entrepreneurship. In this process we aim to strengthen each part of the sanitation value chain. Sanitation services and products are important to ensure quality sanitation services and products are developed with strong market linkages to enable adequate supplies for ongoing, sustainable sanitation – especially for the under-served.
ISC does not provide any financial assistance to its partners for implementation. What it does is connect funders and implementers, and create a strong member base to enhance the scope for disseminating knowledge. Empowering its members in this way will help them in making informed decisions. ISC is working to increase the accessibility of various stakeholders to toolkits and templates, and mapping existing resources. ISC also recognizes the importance of creating partnerships and collaborations, to build on the strengths that organizations can provide each other to achieve scalable, sustainable outcomes.
As part of forward planning, we aim to create more collaborative platforms. wherein we need to bring together different key players in the ecosystem like water, sanitation, health, food security etc. and drive collective efforts towards making a healthier India.
One of the biggest challenges the sector is facing is unlocking the CSR funds for sanitation. This is in spite of the fact that numerous corporates are willing to invest in sanitation and even more implementers are willing to receive the funds! The biggest reason behind this has been the lack of clarity on utilization of the funds. Corporates have their own reasons to ensure their branding as a small return on the investments. They also have justifications to invest in projects confined to a restricted geographical location. Important aspect is advocacy so that the government makes it easier for corporates to engage, and guide them by providing the right points of contact within the system, to cut through the red tape especially at the local levels.
It’s not just government-corporate but a 3-way partnership that is needed, and the third player here is the NGOs who understand the ground realities. Along the way, it is key to leverage each other’s strengths and build the capacity of parties like NGOs. The ISC intends to further strengthen those linkages among the different stakeholders. Through its extended membership base, ISC is working closely with the national and state governments for creating a platform for the same. With only two and half years left in the SBM, it is critical that the entire process is fast tracked with visible concrete outcomes.
The key beneficiaries in the sanitation mission are people who reside in rural areas and urban slums. Their financial capacities are understandably limited. Therefore, one expectation from the sanitary ware industry is to provide cost effective materials to the beneficiaries.
Another important role which they can play is to improve the supply chain in terms of accessibility of the materials. Access to materials has been a big bottleneck in construction. It involves transportation of materials over a long distance which increases the overall cost.
This industry too needs to provide cost effective materials along with playing an integral part in improving the supply chain. Also as part of corporate social responsibility, they need to invest more in sanitation and cleanliness along with spreading awareness.
It is important for tiles, bath and sanitary industries to engage with other players working in the sanitation space for greater collaborations and knowledge sharing. The India Sanitation Coalition can help in providing that platform to these industries.
Design has a key role as it is directly linked to usage. It needs to be a combination of user friendliness and affordability. Public toilets and washrooms also need to have models which can cater to the differential needs of children, women, senior citizens and disabled population. For senior citizens and disabled people, the designs shouldn’t be restricted only to accessible sanitation facilities but also needs to cater to accessible water facilities for sanitation.
Simple message is to make designs appealing, hygienically clean and should be affordable. Designs need to be inclusive and customized to cater to different types of needs especially for senior citizens and disabled groups. Architects and designers need to build designs after consultation with community members so that their needs can be incorporated.
Government, developmental organizations and corporates have started focusing on spreading the message of not wasting water. This includes one to one messaging, advertisements, etc. Most of the messages are general messages and I am not much aware of any particular focus on Taps and faucets. But the overall messages convey information about not wasting water through any source which includes taps and faucets.
ISC defines sustainable sanitation to include the entire value chain of Build, Use, Maintain and Treat (BUMT) and we strongly advocate that both the conversation and efforts around sanitation need to be viewed through this lens. The manifold benefits of sanitation can come only if the sanitation is safe and sustainable whose four phases are Build, Use, Maintain and Treat (BUMT).
As partners come together to support the country’s Swachh Bharat Mission, it’s important for all to understand what the essential good practices for each of the four phases are. These need to be part of the project design for all sanitation related interventions. Various partners at ISC have come together to create a ready-to-share BUMT Advocacy docket, with various materials as a part of it. ISC encourages all partners and stakeholders to leverage the docket and further share it with its networks.
At ISC, we have come across multiple corporates with varied strengths. Each of these players, from marketing agencies to development practitioners, are repositories of knowledge, expertise and practical insights, willing and able to engage in the Indian sanitation space. Coalition is trying to bring the corporates together to ensure a collective response to work towards total and sustainable sanitation; we must keep the focus on build, use, maintain and treat. And to maximize the collective contributions, we must tap into the tremendous potential in creating entry points for these multiple stakeholders across the entire value chain.
ISC is working closely with corporates in various capacities including:
Till now, discussion around corporate engagement in the sector has focused a lot on the numbers around “build, build, build.” However, as the India Sanitation Coalition’s philosophy embodies, there is a need to shift the focus onto the entire value chain of sanitation – from just build to build, use, maintain and treat (BUMT). Another important focus of ISC is to ensure that sanitation is seen as business opportunity so that the contribution of corporates can go beyond the traditional ambit of CSR projects
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