Community-designed,built and managed toilet blocks in Indian cities

by Sundar Burra,Sheela Patel and
Thomas Kerr

source :Environment&Urbanization Vol 15 No 2 October 2003


This paper describes the ten-year programme of community-designed,
built and managed toilet blocks undertaken by urban poor federations
and women’s cooperatives,with support from the Indian NGO SPARC.This
programme has reached hundreds of thousands of poor urban dwellers with much
improved sanitation and facilities for washing ;it has also demonstrated how such
provision is affordable and manageable for all Indian cities.But this programme
has also demonstrated to city authorities the capacity and competence of urban poor
organizations,and helped change the relationship between the residents of slums
and local government agencies.The paper begins by explaining why sanitation has
been neglected,and describes the inadequacies in government sanitation
programmes.It then describes the first experiments with community sanitation
and the difficult negotiations in many cities,including Mumbai,Kanpur and
Bangalore.Then it discusses the major community toilet programmes that devel-oped
in Pune and Mumbai.It highlights the innovations that allowed these to work
better than previous public toilet blocks,the reasons why the urban poor organiza-tions
took on these projects,the lessons learnt and the ways in which community
toilet blocks helped address other problems faced by the urban poor.