India has the highest population of any country in the world without access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. According to WaterAid and the World Health Organisation (WHO), 163 million people still lack access to safe water and millions still defecate in the open.
Global engineering and design consultancy, Arup, and leading UK water charity, FRANK Water, have launched the WASH Connect mobile app and WASH Basins Toolkit – to help water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) professionals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government agencies facilitate safe sustainable and equitable water and sanitation services.
The Wash Basins Toolkit is a six-stage water security process based on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) principles, as aligned with SDG Target 6.5.1 calling for the implementation of IWRM at all levels by 2030.
IWRM is ‘the coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources, to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of ecosystems.’
The organisations worked together with communities to understand local issues and develop their own answers to securing safe, clean drinking water and sanitation.
The toolkit empowers local government and communities to jointly control and manage water resources in a way that meets the real needs of their local area while considering the national and international context including river basin and aquifer pressures as well as climate change. It has the potential to change attitudes towards water resource management across India.
The toolkit and app use digital tools such as the KoBo Toolbox and India Space Programme technology to help develop accurate assessments of the water situation on the ground and follow a structured six-stage water security process.
The WASH Connect app and toolkit are part of the outcomes of a three-year partnership during which FRANK Water and Arup have joined forces with Samerth Charitable Trust and the People’s Science Institute (two of FRANK’s India-based partners) to find answers to India’s water crisis.
“Unequal allocation of water is one of the world’s most urgent problems and the outbreak of Covid-19 has only served to further highlight the need for equitable, sustainable safe water. The WASH Connect app aims to directly help communities to understand and manage their water better, ensuring they have access to resilient water resources for generations to come,” says Jon Shepherd, FRANK Water India Programme Manager.
Over the last three years, the project has worked with more than 40 vulnerable communities in the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, empowering them to develop their own answers to securing safe, clean drinking water and sanitation by mapping water resources, sharing data and facilitating groundwater recharge.
Project partners adopted a multi-level approach, working with individual communities and local government agencies to empower them to jointly control and manage water resources.
“Technology plays a fundamental role in the way we access and learn new information. The methodology we have developed in the toolkit and app aligns with global best practice in water management and integrates with the latest developments in information technology and open-source satellite data whilst keeping the tasks and actions achievable and repeatable at a community and NGO level. This app will help other NGOs and local governments apply the principles of integrated water resources management (IWRM) to their own programmes across India and other parts of the world where water is in short supply. It has the potential to change attitudes towards water resource management across India and beyond,” says Vera Ngosi, Arup Project Lead.
The WASH Connect app and toolkit have been developed against the national and international context including river basin and aquifer pressures, as well as climate change.
About the organisations
UK water charity, FRANK Water aims to alleviate global water poverty, enhance health, and protect the natural environment by improving the way that people understand and use water to encourage global water security. Since 2005, FRANK Water has provided safe water, sanitation, and hygiene training (WASH) to more than 400,000 people in 550 villages across India and Nepal. FRANK Water’s work contributes towards Sustainable Development Goal 6 - providing access to safe water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Arup (Ove Arup and Partners International Limited) is a multinational professional services firm headquartered in London which provides engineering, design, planning, project management, and consulting services for all aspects of the built environment.
Samerth Charitable Trust is an Indian non-profit development organization that works towards accelerating a humane, sustainable, and equitable society. Samerth has invested in over 16 years towards society in the areas of education, water security, women’s empowerment, and livelihoods in different parts of the country especially in the state of Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. The focus is on improving the conditions of marginalized communities and to that extent, Samerth helps vulnerable communities to gain access to their social and economic rights.
People’s Science Institute’s activities are spread all over India with a focus on the central-western Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and the poverty-ridden districts of western Orissa.