(This piece was written by me on March 6, 2012 when I was working as Municipal Commissioner, NWCMC, Nanded)
The challenge of Sanitation has been discussed, debatedand tried to be addressed more in the rural areas. I do not know how much of that is due to the problem being more severe in rural areas and how much due to other factors – such as romanticism with rural development. In rural areas, space is not really a constraint, and with relatively less plastic use, the garbage is not that unsightly. It was only the shit and the scene of people sitting on the approach roads to a village, which were now cement ones, that sent a shock ! In the city, there are no such leisure open spaces that can be out of sight (out of mind) for people. There are though the areas- slums, areas adjoining Railways, dumping grounds, open plots, which are not so obvious to the outsiders (or chosen to be ignored) – but very obvious to the residents there. The sanitation issues in the city, except the space aspect, differs from the rural areas in few more aspects- first, it is more comprehensive and does not limit to the open daefecation. It touches solid waste management. It is also more ‘complex’ in the sense that it is more closely knit with the hardware- the sewage system, the supply chain for garbage collection etc. Although there may be options reducing the dependence on the extrinsic professional service, such as a community digging its own pit and making compost, they have not been tried and tested enough. For waste water management, it is even more difficult. In a city, people would expect services to a much greater level than a rural area. Despite attempts at professionalizing service delivery, gaps remain.
The conviction that any efficient service delivery- more so, sanitation- has two aspects- behavioural change and professional service delivery however cuts rural-urban boundaries. The debate on whether the former should conform to the latter, or vice versa can go on. An attempt to do both bring best results and set in motion a virtuous circle. In Urban Sanitation debates and seminars, we have been discussing the latter. We have talked of the various models which incentivize/disincentivise professional service delivery. We have also talked about the best technology options for processing this huge (for most cities, typically, the solid waste runs into hundreds of Metric tons per day) waste. As far as ‘behavioural change’ is concerned, it has found place in DPRs (Detailed Project Reports) for big solid waste transportation projects as one of the activities. The aspect, we must admit, has got a secondary status. Not because the intentions are not there, but a) because there is a vacuum of organizations ‘skilled’ in bringing about this behavioural change b) there has not been a demonstrable experimentation with this and would hence involve ‘risks’ (of the unknown). With good backing up with infrastructure creation, we are however convinced, having working with this for over a year now, that this is the only sustainable approach.
The opportunity came when the cities were asked to prepare CSPs- City Sanitation Plans. We were very convinced with two facts- one the Plan has to be an ‘implementable’ (practical) plan. There is no point in making a plan, the implementation of which requires as much funds as one would never get! Second, there can be no time gap between Plan preparation and Plan implementation. We were prepared to go ahead with the Plan implementation with our own financial resources before we could get external funds. Even otherwise, fortunately for us, the city is a Jnnurm city, and all infrastructure works that were to support a ‘clean city’ – Storm Water drains, Sewerage Network, houses with toilets for slum dwellers- are going on. The only gap was to look at the ‘micro issues’- of peoples’ involvement in keeping their area clean. The challenge was to drive across the message- People get the kind of city they deserve’- effectively to the citizens.
Before we began, we were aware of the challenges/questions that would arise. This citizens approach for cleanliness was being adopted for the first time in an urban scenario, and therefore there were questions that came to mind. Whether Communities will come together for this cause? In a city, where vis a vis rural areas, political equations are more sensitive, would any such experiment that also carries a potential for nurturing new leadership be allowed? What will be the ‘triggering’ tools for ‘solid waste’- till now these have been developed for ‘open defaecation’ only ! How will we respond to increased demands and increased accountability once the citizen groups get involved in sanitation- once they are part of the ‘solution’ ?
Determined to find answers to these questions by doing, we engaged Knowledge Links and Feedback Foundation to carry out the work of ‘behavioural change’ for sanitation in Nanded city. These two organizations are trained in and believers in the CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) approach- an approach which emphasizes ‘collective behavioural change in the community and triggering of the community to work for itself. The approach looks at the final outcome- improved sanitation standards- rather than outputs such as number of toilets constructed- and abhors anything (such as a subsidy!) that is detrimental to such a collective effort. Knowledge Links and Feedback Foundation, each began to work in 2 Prabhags. The Cityis divided into 4 Prabhags. The work began with a City level workshop in early 2011, attended by experts and prominent citizen groups from the city during which deliberations were made on various aspects of Sanitation in the City. This was followed by Prabhag level workshops, where more citizens and potential ‘natural leaders’ were invited and given exposure to CLTS approach over a period of three days. The real work with the communities, the hallmark of CLTS began then.
In the initial two months, February and March 2011, both the agencies worked closely with the people and the NWCMC to formulate the City Sanitation Plan. The data available with the NWCMC was validated through many citizen workshops. Many of these workshops tried to get addressed from the participants themselves- what were the sanitation issues in their areas, what were their responsibilities, and what were NWCMC’s responsibilities. The occasion of Plan preparation was also an opportunity to do ‘triggering’ in the communities on a pilot basis and fine tune the triggering tools. Over two months, on the 31stMarch, 2011, a Participative Plan was ready and we started its implementation on the 1st April, 2012.
Consciously and understandably, the work began from slums. Slums have their unique character. In Nanded, most slums are actually unauthorized lay outs where people of the unorganized labour sector- hawkers, fruit sellers, auto rickshaw drivers, house maids, beggars, labour in organized and unorganized sector, some skilled craftsmen such as potters, broom makers – live. The land belongs to people only at such places. The issues of sanitation at such places arises from multiple reasons such as- a) poor service delivery for e.g. the garbage collection van may not reach every house because of poor road or narrow lanes b) peoples’ expectation of services is less- they have stayed traditionally in environments where children are defaecating in open drains, there are heaps of garbage etc.
In such areas, the representational institutional structure in the local Government is also poor. A councilor represents about 5000 to 10,000 population, and if he himself does not belong to the slum, the slum development gets ignored. In such a scenario, as in CLTS elsewhere, the approach is to talk to the entire community and let natural leaders emerge. This does prove successful, despite the apparent odds. It is usually the women who take a lead here. Holding a broom in her hand and sweeping the street is not as difficult for women here as it might be in a non slum area. And hard working, as they are, the slum gets a changed look in days. The NWCMC responds by improving the service of garbage collection van. The citizens cooperate by beginning to actively monitor this through a day wise monitoring chart painted at a public place. And by involving citizens in ‘positive’ sanitary behaviour such as – no littering, throwing garbage in garbage van only, not throwing plastic pouches (of ‘gutkha) in drains, not defaecating in the open. A community once triggered knows no bounds. They then move on to segregating ( not mixing!) their house hold dry and wet waste and digging pits for converting their wet waste into ‘compost’. The dry waste they can sell to the kabadi walla (scrap dealer) and utilize that money for a bona fide purpose such as donation to the needy! They would also join hands with NWCMC for any good social cause such as tree plantation, minimizing plastic use etc. The NWCMC begins to gain by a) earning respect for the work it does b) increase in efficiency through partnering with citizens c) better monitoring of its services d) financial gain possible by its tactical withdrawl if the community takes up the sanitation management itself fully. It is a 100% ‘win-win’.
In slums, fortunately, under the BSUP (Basic Services for the Urban Poor) scheme, houses and infrastructure is also being done that shall take care of drinking water supply, toilets and sewerage network. Even in BSUP scheme, we have tried to encourage community mobilization by involving two partners- SPARC and Media Matters. While the former directly supports the community in constructing their own assets by hand holding them, the latter held six days residential workshops with representatives from the slums to help create better understanding and trust amongst the infrastructure provider (NWCMC) and the slum dwellers. The tool of participative theatre made the entire exercise that much more interesting and fruitful. The community that is geared up and involved in such programmes naturally gets involved in the sanitation programme more readily and vice versa. Good efforts multiply.
Having reasonably tested the community approach in the slums, we moved to non slums. These are the areas where service delivery standards and infrastructure is relatively better. Any shortfall is quickly voiced and hence response from the administration is also quicker. In these areas, we laid more focus on issues such as segregation of waste. One housing complex/colony- a group of about 10-40 houses would usually form a unit in such cases for a collective behavioural change. The ongoing efforts prior to CLTS also got encouragement. One Mrs. Mukhedkar from Uday Nagar was already a champion of waste segregation at the household level and its composting. Once CLTS was initiated, not only did she revive efforts in her community, she also became a resource person to spread the technology and technique elsewhere. The non slums also utilized the occasions of various festivals such as ‘Makar Sankranti’ to gather women around the sanitation cause and promote efforts such as non plastic use.
Realising that children were coming out in big numbers as the ‘change agents’ and natural leaders during triggering, efforts were made to trigger schools and colleges. The student hostels were also triggered. Competitions were also used as a medium to involve them. The students of MSW(Masters in Social Work) got a particularly good chance to do this hands on work in social change. In turn, they helped us to spread the message faster. These students also partnered effectively with the NWCMC in maintaining cleanliness during festivals such as Ganesh festival and did a remarkable work at many occasions including collecting Nirmalaya during Ganpati visarjan and disposing it properly. The school and college students also participated in Sanitation rallies, made efforts to keep their own school/college premise clean, helped in triggering shop keepers to keep a dust bin in their shops to help market area looking clean and physically assisting the NWCMC staff/labour during ‘Clean-up city’ campaimomgns.
An important stakeholder in this whole exercise is the Sanitary staff of the NWCMC. The SI (Sanitary Inspector) is the NWCMC officer responsible for sanitation of about 25000 to 50000 population. As we are short of permanent labour, the work of collection and transportation of garbage from households and the city has been given to a private company which engages manpower and machinery to do this work. The SI work then gets reduced to supervising and getting work done from this company. The overall responsibility being of the NWCMC, this backseat driving is not an easy task. The SI s response to the Knowledge Links and Feedback Foundation has changed over the year. In the initial stages, there was skepticism, a threat – that our weaknesses in service delivery would now be exposed. However, as everyone realized that KL and FF were there to help bringing about a positive behavioural change in the people towards sanitation, and that in turn would make our job easier, they were welcomed and Sis worked as a team with them. We have been very cautious from the beginning not to get over dependent on external agencies like KL and FF lest the process should die out once they leave. The attempt has been to rub on the skills on to our staff and other stake holders. TheKL and FF have now made a place in the hearts of all stakeholders of sanitation in the city, especially the citizens themselves.
As the garbage collection service has been privatized, the people of that company have also closely worked with and appreciated the work carried out by KL and FV. As the service delivery must improve after triggering, once the citizens have taken the first step, this close coordination between KL/FF and the Garbage transportation company staff and our SI s is sine qua non for the success of this effort.
NWCMC has a political wing and an administrative wing. The political wing consists of 79 Councillors, each representing about 5000 population, elected by the citizens every five years. He is their representative in the local government and his job is to influence policies to suit the interest of his constituency as well as implement schemes/works to benefit his constituency. This election is fiercely contested i.e. to say, power to speak on behalf of the citizens is won not easily, and hence not shared liberally. Wisely enough, therefore, the Councillors are first taken into confidence while initiating this community work. It has been the experience, that once the Councillors also realize, that the effort is genuine, in citizens interest, and non political, they support the efforts.
While the work at the micro level continued, much away from the media glare and discussions at various public platforms, efforts were undertaken to supplement this with ‘events’. One of these was a City wide sanitation maharally on the 23rd June, 2011. Flagged simultaneously from six places in the city by H’ble Mayor, Deputy Mayor, MLA and other dignitaries, thousands of men, women and children walked miles to gather at Old Mondha, a landmark point in the city. Many Councillors participated. It served the purpose of bringing sanitation on the forefront. It also was a celebration point for communities to participate in this event and inspire others. Another occasion was the day of Ganpati visarjan. While the God is immersed in the Godavri river, many other things- flower garlands etc- are also thrown in the river, thereby polluting it. Knowledge Links effectively mobilized students from many MSW colleges which wore badges and successfully collected Nirmalaya from the citizens and disposed it properly. They also participated next day in cleaning up the main roads that had become dirty owing to the processions the earlier day along with the NWCMC staff.
While the communities were cooperating in a positive way, there were still gaps in service delivery and there was increasing demand for ‘cleaning up’ the city. So we planned for a three days ‘Clean up Nanded’ campaign, beginning on October 02, 2011. The objective was to clean up the city in a mission mode. There are areas in a city, sometimes out of sight, where garbage is dumped chronically and the daily cleaning cannot address it. We mobilized the entire machinery of NWCMC. Our officers got down in the drains cleaning them and took brooms in their hands. It was a big confidence building measure with our labour who traditionally does this ‘unpleasant’ work. It was a great sensitization experience for all of us. Our morales were boosted. The citizens, students also joined in this effort.
Competition is a great motivator. We used the occasion of Ganpati festival to promote sanitation message and declared three awards in each zone and three at the city level. The awards were to be given based on inspection and valuation of the sanitation work done by the Ganesh mandals with respect to –actual sanitation behaviour (which is put more to test during these public celebrations!), involvement of women and children and use of innovative ways to bring about awareness. Ganesh Mandals including some colleges actively participated in this.
As the energies of the triggered people have to be channelized continuously, we also use various occasions to carry out activities like tree plantation. Two such mega events have been done on 31st July, 2011 and 26th Jan, 2012. On the former day, mainly the triggered communities participated along with the sanitation and garden departments of NWCMC. During the latter, the NWCMC employees from all departments took the lead and implemented ‘one employee one tree’ campaign.
Typically, the community passes through various stages of empowerment and action in this process. There is pre triggering and initial ice breaking where the KL/FV teams get acquainted with the communities and decide the day of triggering. On the day of triggering, through various tools such as mapping, rice and shit experiment, hair and water drinking experiment, transect walk and facilitation of analysis of the situation, the community rises into immediate action and decisions such as cleaning up the dirty areas and stopping open defaecation. Then starts a process of institutional building where the natural leaders that emerge form a sanitation committee and take on the role of – a) cooperating with service delivery provider b) monitoring the services c) policing errant sanitation behaviour d) creating awareness towards stopping open defaecation and preventing littering and d) initiating activities such as waste segregation and composting e) taking up activities beyond sanitation such as tree plantation etc.
We have consciously adopted a policy of responding positively to community efforts as far as our service delivery , or if possible, infrastructure creation is concerned. We call it ‘positive incentivisation’. It is different from a carrot policy in that there is no promise made when a community participates in sanitation work. However, we try to reward the community directly or indirectly, once they have adopted good sanitation behaviour.
The process is closely linked with a) decentralization and b) empowerment. The decentralization is at this stage informal. The ‘sanitation’ committees are informal institutions taking care of sanitation issues of their areas. They are the active participants in the process and have a voice too. They are begin to get invited to and actively participate in public meetings. They are discussing issues beyond sanitation. There has been an attempt to formalize this institutional structure as well. The NWCMC passed a resolution in December 2011 that there shall be ‘Area Sabhas’ and ‘Area Development Committees’. The ‘Area Sabhas’ represent all the voters of a defined area which varies from the jurisdiction of 1-5 polling stations and covers a rough population of 1000. The ‘Area Development Committee’ is to be elected by the ‘Area Sabha’ and this committee has been given powers to execute new/maintenance works up to certain amount on behalf of the NWCMC. The concept is thus ‘peoples’ development by themselves’. The incentivisation of ‘good behaviour’ is also made part of this scheme called ‘Bhagidari’ where development works are allotted to ‘Area Development Committees’ if tax collection is commendable, if they have resolved for good sanitation behaviour etc. We hope that the ‘informal’ empowerment of members of sanitation committee shall help in the ‘right’ selection of representatives of the ‘Area Development Committee’ once these Committees are formed. Even without a very formal structure, these triggered individuals, at least in areas where they form a ‘critical mass’, shall sustain the sanitation movement. The challenge in sanitation is then to create more and more of these sanitation natural leaders, hand hold them and empower them formally/informally. Within ‘most’ of the communities in a city, once such triggered natural leaders and champions emerge, the city shall become much cleaner. The challenge also is to involve and trigger market areas and such areas of the city where there is lot of floating population.
There are challenges to this process as well. One challenge is that our supply side- service delivery must match the expectations of people. Till the time, people had not adopted good sanitation behaviour ( i.e. to say they would litter, use plastic, defaecate in the open), NWCMC and people were on the opposite sides blaming each other. But when each of them realizes its responsibility and agree to work together for a clean city, we must ensure better service delivery then. It is an immense moral pressure to respond to the good initiatives of the people. What is the best model that incentivizes most professional garbage collection and transportation needs to be studied and adopted. An ideal system would be ward level decentralized solid waste management. Till that is achieved, NWCMC must provide a professional garbage collection and transportation service to its citizens. The immediate services required are- a) ensuring that the garbage collection van reaches every house daily b) that there is a functional sewerage network c) that there is adequate maintenance of water supply and sewerage networks to ensure zero contamination of drinking water d) provision of well functional toilets at public places. All this requires both professionalizing service delivery and carrying out reforms such as levying ‘user charges’ for the service. There also needs to be in a place a good monitoring system (CLTS provides the best monitoring mechanism through vibrant responsible citizens) for service delivery. There also needs to be a professional system to check errant sanitation behaviour.
We have been learning sanitation by doing it for about a year now. In one year, a total of 426 communities have been ‘triggered’. Such communities have initiated good sanitation practices. However, within each such community the practice may not have spread to the entire population, and that is the activity the natural leaders in these communities have to continue for a while with support from NWCMC, KL and FV. 188 communities have become ODF, however this has yet to be evaluated externally. 321 communities have formed Nigrani (Monitoring) committees to monitor service delivery by NWCMC. 62 communities have dug pits and begun to make compost out of their ‘wet’ waste. The process has begun. There is a long way to go!