Monday, June 11, 2007

Sulabh International Social Service Organization, A Success Story

United Nations Economic and Social Council
AMR Innovation Fair

“Innovation and transformation for Eradication of Poverty and Hunger”
Geneva, Switzerland
2-5 July, 2007

1. Name of the approach/tool/project
Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers through Innovative Technology and Capacity Building : A Success Story.

2. Description of the approach/tool//project description (methodology, techniques and strategies used);
Sanitation in India has continued to be a matter of low priority on account of several factors – social, cultural, economic and technological. Nearly 65% of the population lacks basic sanitation facilities. One major cause of concern is the existence of 13 million bucket and dry privies and the wide-spread prevalence of open defecation. A particular class of people called “scavengers” clean these bucket privies or dry latrines and make house to house collection of human excreta in buckets and carry it on their heads for disposal. Since generations, they have been relegated to the lowest of the low in society, the majority of them being women. Though regulation prohibits scavenging, it required technological back-up and its implementation, to create conditions which eliminate the need of employing scavengers.
After years of research, Sulabh International Social Service Organisation developed the eco-friendly, pour-flush, water-seal, compost latrine with two leach pits for on-site disposal of human excreta, popularly known as Sulabh Shauchalaya, meaning a convenient toilet. Sulabh’s technology of two-pit composting toilet was a new idea and an altogether new approach to solve the problem of open defecation as well as to free scavengers from the highly demeaning and dehumanizing vocation, which was hereditary and also the only way for their survival and sustenance. This approach revolutionized the sanitation scenario in India. The scavengers thus liberated from this work were imparted training in various vocations for earning their livelihood, thus providing them self-respect, human dignity and bringing them in the mainstream of society in India. They were able to eke out a living in a more humane way, earning much more and freed from the trap of acute poverty and hunger.

3. Implementation Methodologies
Householders in urban and peri-urban areas were motivated to convert their existing dry or bucket privies into pour-flush (where water is used for flushing) by the Sulabh volunteers, who went door-to-door to motivate them. The technology of Sulabh two-pit was applied and construction done in their houses, thus liberating scavengers and weaning them from the job of manually cleaning dry toilets and carrying human excreta as head-load. A large number of towns have been made scavenging-free by Sulabh.
Vocational Training Centres were set up by Sulabh where training was imparted to these scavengers in various market-oriented trades such as - electrician’s job, carpentry, sewing and tailoring, dress designing, computer repair, driving, preparation of various edible items, etc. Their capacity building enabled them to earn a better livelihood and they found other better avenues of employment. Health and hygiene education was imparted to them simultaneously.

4. What is Innovative about this approach/tool/project?
The application of the break-through technology by Sulabh not only showed the way on how to discourage defecation in the open, but also, how millions of bucket toilets could be converted into the Sulabh model to eliminate manual scavenging by 700,000 scavengers in India. The unique combination of scientific methodology matched step-by-step with the human endeavour of abolishing scavenging has been a novel approach to meet the challenge of defecation in the open and scavenging, thereby showing a way of meeting the problem of poverty and resultant hunger.

5. Evidence of results and impact
It has transformed the lives of thousands of people from a life of degradation, social discrimination, untouchability, misery, hunger and poverty to a healthier life with dignity, basic human rights, respect and social justice. More than 6,000 scavengers have been trained at various vocational centers.
The Human Development Report 2003, while mentioning about Sulabh Sanitation Movement observed “The Sulabh latrine can promote environmental sanitation in most densely populated urban areas. But to do so, it must be adopted by international agencies as a model for widespread promotion in developing countries.” The work and achievements of Sulabh also finds mention in The Human Development Report 2006. The organisation has developed its linkages and partnerships with relevant governmental organisations and agencies, both at the central, state and local levels as also with various international organisations like WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNEP, UN-Habitat, UN-ECOSOC and several civil society organizations in India and abroad.

6. Costs associated with the development of the approach/tool/project
The cost associated with the development of the approach and its implementation is miniscule compared to the impact it has had on the lives of thousands of people who are the lowest of the low in Indian society and the technological breakthrough of providing a safe and hygienic human waste disposal system for on-site sanitation, which has the potential to be replicated world-wide and save millions of people globally, enabling them to live healthier, more dignified and productive lives.

7. Contact information
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak
Sulabh International Social Service Organisation
Sulabh Gram, Mahavir Enclave
Palam-Dabri Marg, New Delhi- 110045, INDIA
Tel: +91 11 25031518, 25031519
Fax: +91 11 25034014, 25055952

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