How does WaterAid address water, sanitation, and hygiene issues in the India?

WaterAid/ Dieter Telemans

In India, WaterAid’s endeavour to reach out to everyone, everywhere with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene. Since its inception in the year 1986, the initial years of work were in addressing water issues but what also came to light was the deteriorating condition of sanitation in the country. Thus, WaterAid’s focus amplified from only water to water, sanitation and hygiene issues.

What came as quick learning was the fact that given the scale of challenges the country faced, the essence of work remained in flexible, innovative and scalable solutions to address and contribute to the organisation’s core objectives. Gradually, WaterAid India (WAI) began its operations beginning with small scale local challenges, looking for localised solutions, involving women as entrepreneurs, developing community led models, and thus adopting a district wide approach.

The Approach

Over the years, WAI has evolved from an organisation working to address people’s basic needs to someone with a larger understanding about the current scenario and having collaborative initiatives with key stakeholders and beneficiaries. During the process, it also looked at models of market-based solutions, which keep the poor and especially women at the centre; experimented with approaches, keeping in view people’s rights, and worked towards building a people’s institutions. The extensive ground experience is used to engage in continuous research, and analysis to derive critical insights and evidences.

WAI has demonstrated designs that are resilient to disasters, addresses special needs of people with disability while also integrate water, sanitation and hygiene in diverse outreach programmes.

WAI has nurtured leadership among individuals, civil society movements, and organisations, and has influenced elected representatives and bureaucrats to prioritise access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. Today, it has reached a stage where it is now a natural partner of choice for Government as well as non-government actors.

The Transition

WAI has evolved from being a UK based organisation working in India to an Indian entity registered as Jal Seva Charitable Trust under Section 25C of the Company’s Act while remaining as an associate of WaterAid International Federation.

It has been part of the transition from Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), where water and sanitation have been accorded a separate Goal – to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

Need of the Hour

The country has seen a shift towards financial decentralisation with the 14th Finance Commission recommendations allocating significant resources at the village level for bottom up planning and implementation of basic services. Yet, people particularly poor and the socially excluded groups continue to linger on the margins, with their constant struggle to access basic quality water and sanitation services.

In the growing face of erratic droughts and floods, an enduring strategy towards management and conservation of water needs desperate attention. Additionally, second generation issues of waste management and context appropriate toilet designs are gradually being focussed on.

Henceforth, WaterAid India strives to make universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene a reality by 2030, the SDG target year.

Global Context

From 2017, the United Nations through JMP (Joint Monitoring Project) has set a new minimum standard for water and sanitation services, categorised as ‘safely managed’. With this change, the minimum standards of universal access includes that everyone should be able to enjoy a tap or a bore well on their premises, that the water is ensured to be free from contaminants through regular testing. It also means that everyone has their own private toilet equipped with the systems in place to manage its waste along with a handwashing facility.

While WaterAid India aligns and support the global goal of ‘safely managed’ water and sanitation services, we will not lose focus on ensuring basic services as an interim milestone.