Poop Matters

Bringing Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) to the Kitth and Kund Villages in Uttarakhand

“About how much does your waste weigh every time you go?” a Himmotthan Society worker asked with a straight face in Garhwali, the native language of the Kitth and Kund villages in the Tehri district in Uttarakhand.

The villagers stared at him with confused looks for a few seconds until someone spoke up uncertainly, “Maybe 300 grams?” The discussion continued to focus on the sheer amount of waste the village created each day: 300 grams per visit, 2 times per person per day, an average of 5 people per household. That’s 3 kilograms of waste created by each household each day! And in a village without proper toilets and sanitation, it’s imperative to understand how it can impact the health of those in the area. For many, toilets exist but are not being used as a result of lack of awareness.

India is a country which houses almost 60% of the global population that lives without access to toilets and defecates in the open (WHO-UNICEF 2015 Joint Monitoring Program). It is estimated that the country will need to build 15.42 crore toilets by 2019 in order to address the nationwide sanitation crisis. The scenario in the Himalayan region is no different, with household latrine coverage merely around 54% and drinking water of 52% in the central and western Himalayan regions (2011 Census Report).

According to a CII and Center for Policy Research (CPR) report published in 2015, the estimated cost for implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission, both capex (till 2019) and operation and maintenance expenses for 10 years, is approximately Rs. 8.93 lakh crores. CII and the industry have been actively taking up initiatives to support the Swachh Bharat Initiative.

One such initiative, spearheaded by the CII Foundation in partnership with The Himmotthan Society (which was set up by the Tata Trusts), supports and manages the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) project in Kitth and Kund villages. The project focuses on not only providing potable water sources, conservation efforts and sanitation education to villagers, but on encouraging the residents to establish and sustain these efforts as permanent fixtures.

“Let’s play a game,” the Society worker said. He handed colored sand to the village pradhan, pandit, women, and children. Together, they created a map of the village on the ground: white for the houses, pink for the walkways, red to mark houses with no toilets, green to indicate houses that did, and blue for the water sources. Finally, handing a pile of yellow sand to the pradhan, he asked that he mark all of the places people defecate in the open.

Piles of yellow dust appeared around the map and the Society worker asked, “Tell me, where does this end up?” It was then they realized their waste soaks into the soil they grow their crops in and gets washed into their water sources. That was the moment the villagers realized the gravity of proper sanitation practices.

Suddenly, the idea of drinking water from their own village was no longer appealing to them. It was obvious that the message of this exercise resonated with them: potable water is of no use if hygienic sanitation practices are not given a priority.

The two year project, which began in April 2016, aims to bring potable water and enable 100% sanitation to Kitth and Kund villages, benefiting around 118 households and 789 individuals on the quest to make the villages open defecation free. Additionally, these water scarce villages will also be provided with potable water through this project.

Not only will this program place these villages on the path of reducing water borne illnesses from improper sanitation, but will reduce the women’s drudgery (resulting from travelling kilometers to fetch water daily). Of the nearly 90 villagers who made an appearance at this August community meeting, over half were women, a testament to the obvious concern and high hopes for this project.

“After the committee meeting, I am considering constructing a toilet in my house. It would be an honor if every household in our village has a toilet,” said Modi Devi, a villager who currently does not have running water in her home.

The CII Foundation (CIIF) was set up by CII in 2011 to undertake a wide range of developmental and charitable activities pan India by enabling industry for infusing inclusive development.

CIIF works towards inclusive development by providing a meaningful bridge between marginalized communities and donors, especially corporates by providing strategic guidance on CSR and developing and managing high impact programmes.

The thematic areas of CIIF include: Education; Public Health and Sanitation; Skilling, Employment and Livelihoods; Gender Equality, Women Empowerment and Safety; Environmental Sustainability, including water; Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation.

 

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