Getting communities engaged in faecal sludge management

Community engagement structures at the slum level have ensured that the most mar­ginalized and vulnerable sections of a city, that is, the slum communities now have a voice. (Image: SCI-FI, CPR)
Community engagement structures at the slum level have ensured that the most mar­ginalized and vulnerable sections of a city, that is, the slum communities now have a voice. (Image: SCI-FI, CPR)

Gyanchand Mishra, Councillor of Ward 3, is the President of the Ward Sanitation Committee (WSC) and is also a member of the City Sanitation Task Force (CSTF). As a member of these two institutions, he has leveraged sup­port from the Dhenkanal Municipality and Project Nirmal to improve the sanitation situation in his ward. As a result of his efforts, Ward 3 was declared open defecation free.

Due to the rigorous community mobilisation process, all households in the ward now have toilets that are connected to septic tanks and the containment structures are regularly emptied with the help of a mechanical suction machine being operated by the Dhenkanal Municipality. The collected faecal sludge and septage is treated at the Dhenkanal Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP) at Mahisapat.

Mishra has led many other communi­ty development and infrastructure upgradation initiatives in his ward including upgradation of the cremation ground and provision of toilet complex within its precincts; cleaning of a pond located in the ward which had become a receptacle for wastewater coming from open drains; and negotiating with the Dhenkanal Municipality to procure additional mechanical suction machines for providing emptying services.

“While a low-cost end-to-end decen­tralized sanitation system has been put in place in Dhenkanal Municipality with the active involvement of the community (through SSCs and WSCs), government agencies and local political leaders making it work sustainably is the biggest challenge facing the CSTF and the Dhenkanal Municipality,” says Mishra.

All this was facilitated under Project Nirmal, which worked on the demonstration of appropriate, low-cost, decentralized, inclusive and sustainable sanitation service delivery solutions for two small towns (Angul and Dhenkanal) in Odisha.

To ensure inclusive and sustain­able sanitation solutions, community engage­ment platforms have been created at the slum and ward level here. The idea is to ensure that the marginalised and vulnera­ble communities residing in slum settlements are actively involved in planning and implemen­tation of sanitation services. These community institutions have been entrusted with the re­sponsibility of articulating collective demand for sanitation at the slum and ward level as well as to collaborate and/or negotiate with the local/ state government agencies for the fulfilment of their sanitation-related needs and aspirations.

It is hoped that this bottom-up planning approach would ensure that grassroots issues related to sanitation are well understood and adequately addressed in the city level sanitation plans. Further, these community institutions were also envisioned to take on information dissemination, demand creation and Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) roles.

Three-tiered community engagement structure (at slum, ward and city level)

A three-tier structure for community en­gagement has been put in place at the slum, ward and city level in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities. While the slum level institutions, that is, the Slum Sanitation Committees (SSCs), aren’t a part of the formal urban gover­nance structure the institutions at the ward and city level, namely, the Ward Sanitation Committees (WSCs) and the City Sanitation Task Force (CSTF) have been constituted under the provisions of the Odisha Urban Sanitation Policy (2017) and the Odisha Urban Sanitation Strategy (2017). 

Three-tier community engagement structure implemented under Project Nirmal in Angul and Dhenkanal

Slum Sanitation Committees (SSCs)

  • facilitate demand generation related to sanitation services at the slum level
  • ensure adoption of improved sanita­tion practices among slum households
  • initiate and monitor community-level actions for ensuring quality sanitation services in the slum
  • through their participation in WSCs and CSTF, SSCs are involved in planning and decision-making processes at the ward and city level

Ward Sanitation Com­mittees (WSCs)

  • facilitate collective problem identification, prioritization and plan­ning related to sanita­tion at the ward level
  • monitor the quality of sanitation services in the ward

City Sanitation Task Force (CSTF)

  • coordinate, imple­ment and monitor the City Sanitation Plan (CSP) and related activ­ities under the Project Nirmal

Project Nirmal has been instrumental in facil­itating formation of SSCs and WSCs and their capacity building to enable them to ade­quately address sanitation related issues/chal­lenges in their respective slums and wards, along with facilitating their participation in city-level forums (i.e., CSTF) and interfacing with relevant government officials and agencies.

Community engagement structures in Angul and Dhenkanal

Lessons learnt

  • While the SSCs are not a part of the formal governance structure they have provided an opportunity for households residing in slums to participate in planning and management of sanitation service delivery at the slum level and, through their representation in WSCs and CSTF, at the ward and city level as well.
  • Impact of community engagement process­es and structures has been documented in the form of perspectives and experiences of key stakeholders, namely, Gyanchand Mishra (Councilor, President, WSC and Member, CSTF) and Sita Behara (SHG member, President, SSC, Member, WSC, Angul) and Mr Atal Behari Deba­ta, Angul Municipality’s Nodal officer for SBM-U.
  • Community engagement structures at the slum level have ensured that the most mar­ginalized and vulnerable sections of a city, that is, the slum communities now have a “voice” and that their development needs and aspirations related to sanitation are well un­derstood by the formal governance structures and thus integrated as a part of the overall city-level sanitation plans.

Slum and ward level community structures, i.e., SSCs and WSCs, have ensured active and meaningful participation of local communities in the planning and implementation of sanitation re­lated initiatives. This process has also spurred many individuals to take on leadership positions in their respective communities and at the ward/city level. This process has also prompted them to expand their work to other community devel­opmental themes beyond sanitation.

  • The bottom-up approach of participation, whereby members of SSCs get nominated to the WSCs and members of the WSCs get nom­inated to the CSTF, has ensured active citizen participation in planning, implementation and monitoring of sanitation related initiate es in both Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities.
  • Women have emerged as leading change-makers in their respective communities. Driv­en by a desire to improve the environmental conditions of their settlements for the health and well-being of their children, women have led sanitation and other community develop­ment initiatives from the front.

Aspects to consider while facilitating community structures

Community engagement structures, espe­cially at the slum and ward level, cannot be expected to take on roles without adequate capacity building and training inputs and pro­viding these inputs are crucial for ensuring that these structures are strong and can fulfil their roles and responsibilities effectively.

To ensure that there is effective and meaningful participation of local communi­ties, through members and volunteers of com­munity engagement platforms, meetings must be organized at convenient lo­cations and timings. The location and timing of the meetings must take into cognizance the special needs of women.

The criteria for the selection of members and volunteers must be spelt out to ensure that only those community members who have the time and the motivation to partici­pate are inducted as members.

 

The project was completed in 2020 and was implemented by Centre for Policy Research and Practical Action with support from Bill and Melinda Gates FoundationArghyamHousing and Urban Development, Government of Odisha; and Municipalities of Angul and Dhenkanal. 

The article based on the research learning note 'Project Nirmal: Community Engagement Processes For Planning and Implementing Sanitation/FSSM Interventions’ is a part of the series demonstrating learning and outcomes of the Project Nirmal based on Scaling City Institution for India (SCI-FI)’s research on water and sanitation. More on the series: https://twitter.com/CPR_SCIFI

 

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