From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

  • aprajitasingh
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From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

India launched a reformed national rural sanitation programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G) on 2nd October, 2014 with a mandate of reaching over 11 crore (110 million) households with improved toilets by 2019. In the process, this would eliminate open defecation. This is an extremely ambitious target. SBM was transformational in its design, attempting to learn from past mistakes and intended with the highest possible political and national ownership; it promised to be a game changer for rural sanitation in India.

However, performance of states has differed widely. As of November, 2017, the increase in sanitation coverage was a low 22.87 per cent in poor performers. While a few better performing states like Rajasthan registered an impressive 45.17 percentage increase, states with high rates of open defecation like Bihar and UP, remained laggards with only 14.9 and 12.70 per cent increases, respectively. With 7.9 crore toilets to be constructed till October 2019 in the next 34 months all the states combined will need to construct an average of 23.24 lakh IHHLs per month. This is nearly double the rate at which construction has taken place so far (at 11.42 lakh toilets per month).

Population Services International undertook a policy landscape study that undertook a review of existing literature and conducted key informant interviews with the aim to understand the policy landscape of SBM-G, key functions and the key players (private, public, formal, informal). Additionally, it sought to understand the enablers and barriers in the existing policy in terms of its overall effectiveness, or level of coverage or access. This was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

The insights from the landscape study suggest the following choke points:
• The incremental increases in SBMG allocations
• Presence of a fragmented supply chain
• Missing incentives for market behaviours
• There is a need for the SBM-G to have a strategic stewardship role to unblock market barriers and stand guarantee for unlocking demand. This could catalyse other forms of capital investments from both private and corporate sectors.

I would like members of the SuSanA India Chapter to react to these findings, especially the choke points that the study has identified. Additionally, share ideas on - What are the root causes of these chokepoints and How can these root causes be addressed?

Please suggest how SBM-G can play a strategic stewardship role to overcoming these problems. Your inputs will inform the policy papers that PSI is working to support the emerging policy advocacy needs.

Aprajita Singh
Population Services International India
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  • kris
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

Incentives and investments to providing water for toilet use (which we could do for UP and Bihar ) should fasttrack this program. We could also provide better incentive paths where we link "Education-Sanitation-Nutrition--- ESM" to enhance the value. Here we could provide education to school children and their family members. Education would contain information that only with clean sanitation can the school kids and later their relatives have access to nutrition through healthy breakfast or healthy evening snack.
This would drive both kids and their relatives to build toilets and sanitation facilities. Many being poor, wanting nutrition, would not give much thought to sanitation. So incentives and investments should support the ESN approach and the investments made for toilets + water can be got back in power generation and sales from water and wastewater sources and this also helps development of these areas with distributed electricity generation. FSM could be applied to utilize the waste on many agricultural lands (in thousands of hectares) that are getting saline in Indo-Ganges stretch. We could provide the technologies required investments and incentives are keen to reach target and provide a self-sustained system. People would get ESM, power for communities and small industries from water and waste water.
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  • sanjayg111
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

At the grassroot level, the Panchayats and even Town Committee Areas are still not pro-active. I recently visited two districts of Assam, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh where household owners without toilets were seeking help from the elected and relevant administrators but their response was one of those "Person in Power" response; OK, OK we will see. So basically those who are responsible neither provided the toilets nor any solution, even though there is plenty of funds available. There is private sector available who not only can survey but can also built the toilets for them ( of the choice of households with additional cost borne by the households). The Toilet building should also be linked with possibilities of financing tank for water storage which is a real bottleneck in use of toilets. Both can be combined if the three key players - elected leaders, administration and private sector suppliers develop a joint strategy with a smooth fund transition to private sector. It is less about incentives but more about understanding the local context and being pro-active. Providing choice (catalogue) of models of toilet and tanks are critical as households often need different and aspirational types and not what the government necessarily provides.
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  • Thakur
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

Generally speaking, it can be said that there is inadequate enabling environment to achieve the annual target of ... number of latrines. What should be the enabling environment in terms of governance, policy, funding, involvement of private sector, public awareness, willingness to invest, technical back up etc.? The best possible option would be to create or strengthen "upward" and "downward" flows of the enabling environments with adequate technical and financial support mechanisms in place and continuous reviews of these mechanisms on quarterly basis. The targets set may be unrealistic even if the sincere efforts are in place.

Specifically, in many cases, the governments have created more dependency and still providing external guidance to trigger the people to achieve their targets. This is a complex type of interactive program having concerns to the individual sanitation user as well as to the nation. The external support should be simplified in terms of language, resources and impacts of the program at the individual level.

The bottlenecks may be in having certain tangible gaps in creating better enablers and in lacking a clear understanding on how to develop simple means and strategies that people can easily understand and interpret with respect to their environment. It is also worth to mention here that the people can take initiatives on their own and the governments can facilitate them rather than triggering the people and communities as an external enabler. Hence, a natural combination and interaction of the enabling factors and their strengthening are a must rather than looking after the potential barriers. Attitude of the field base research and guiding framework should also be changed.

Thakur
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  • Ashok
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

Government Machinery is the main bottleneck in choking the progress in the sanitation program. The persons responsible for paying the incentives and technology are either not educated for the job or do not want to apply their minds beyond making a cut for themselves.
A statement made by a mid level officer, quoted here, will amply explain what I am trying to say " Do the job as I am saying. Do not bother about the quality. If the latrine reaches the site without breakage, there end your responsibility. whether it works or how long it works should not be your concern. Make it as cheap as you can."
These officers are not concerned whether they are making leach pits in very high water table, Black cotton soil or rocky soils. their simple answer is that we have meet our targets. If we do not meet this quarters target, we will not get the next months money.
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  • DaniBarrington
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

In response to Kris's post, I would be VERY hesitant about linking sanitation and nutrition in such a way; there are always going to be families who simply CANNOT afford/build sanitation for various reasons. Depriving their children of nutritional value is unethical.

Dani Barrington, PhD, BE (Hons), BSc

Lecturer in Water, Sanitation and Health
University of Leeds

Editor in Chief
Journal of Humanitarian Engineering

Honorary Fellow in Public Health
The University of Quuensland
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  • magdalenabauer
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

Dear Aprajita,

would it be possible to share the publication from PSI you mentioned? I would be very interested to read through it. I am looking for information on different Indian states and their performance in sanitation, because as you mentioned, the state of sanitation and coverage is quite different!

Kind Regards,
Magdalena

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  • sdeshpande
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

Hi Aprajita, good to see an honest appraisal for once. I have seen too many people speak about 100% ODF status in Villages, Districts and States that are simply untrue. Please share the report if possible.

As to the problem, I would say the below are main issues facing the entire Swaach Bharat (Gramin) project:

1. The Toilets: The current system gives a subsidy of Rs. 12-15,000/BPL family. This is inadequate. A decent usable toilet will cost not less than Rs. 25,000. I have seen numerous examples of toilets built at this cost all of which have been abandoned or are used sporadically yet the village is on the records ODF. They are often built with inadequate space inside and practically no ventilation further reducing their usability.

2. The Soak Pit itself whether single large or twin pit: This is a technology that should never have been allowed in India. Do not get me wrong soak pits work fine if as in rural USA or Canada they are connected to large leach fields. In India, we have dense concentrations of people all with soak pits and no leach field as there are space constraints. Villagers are not fools. I have been told repeatedly by villagers please do not put in soak pits as during the rains the dirty water will mix with rainwater flooding the area and villagers will have to cross it to use the toilet. End result is while the soak pits collect the solids the untreated liquid component soaks into the ground where it mixes with the greywater soaking in elsewhere and monsoon rainwater or locally high water tables and spread coliforms everywhere. Imagine 10 years down the road when all our water bodies are contaminated then what?

3. Bathrooms: If you talk to the villagers and especially the women they want bathrooms even more than toilets. Why? For toilet breaks they go in groups to areas with cover. For bathing they do it on platforms with cloth screens right in the village with people passing all the time. If you want to get people to use the toilet attach a bathroom to it.

4. Individual vs. Panchayat responsibility: The current system puts the onus on householders as the toilets are being built for individuals with no connection to the community. Penalties, punishments as is being done in some areas only breeds resentment and will eventually lead to failure.

5. Government Target Dates: We have a situation of one upmanship today with states and districts competing to declare themselves ODF earlier as a result we have old Soviet style reporting happening with 'targets' being achieved.

6. Pride/Asspiration: Building rubbish or things they do not want means that you do not instill pride in the beneficiaries and as a result you disinvest people from the toilet built. You also loose the opportunity for inspiring others to copy.

In summation, I would say build quality even if it means fewer are built, add bathrooms, add a sewer network, treat the sewage to agriculture reuse standards and you will not fail. To the corporates reading this, I would only say that the CSR money you are spending is your hard earned money do not waste it on rubbish and instead of building a 1000 useless toilets build a 100 good ones for the same cost.

We chose quality over quantity and succeeded, no behavioural change required and the village is invested in it. Oh and the village is 100% ODF almost two years doen the road, they have been operating it themselves for the last few months and the monthly OPEX is just Rs.40-42/month/family.

Sanjay
www.clearford.com
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  • sanjayg111
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

Completely agree with Sanjay. This is what I also found in Rajasthan and Assam while promoting toilets. A lot of people wanted aspirational toilets with facilities for bathing/washing clothes. They were ready to top up the subsidy with their own savings or seeking credits from the sanitation supplier to be paid in monthly installments. But they did not want typical government toilets. But most government officials will not listen and discuss this. A typical response is " if you want this toilet, take it or leave it or construct with your own money (Lena hai tou lo nahi to apna banao).

The second important aspect is understanding the context of water availability and storage. If that is also taken into consideration, the chances of use of toilet are much higher. I do not believe in this ODF status. Most are just target reaching on paper without any monitoring or verification. In 2012 I visited Jharkhand to see ODF villages and found that it is all on paper. Reality was quite different and that's true today also.
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  • aprajitasingh
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

Thanks everyone for the great insights. While I agree that the overall government machinery involved in releasing the incentives has challenges. For instance, in some places there is no provision for covering transportation costs that block officers incur in validating toilets. Further, though the government has got it right by in principal linking the incentive of toilet with use; in reality the release is being linked to validation of toilet constructions. The indicators for measuring use are both weak and challenging to capture. However, I would want to get some thoughts on the supply side. In our study, we found out that the overall market readiness to provide for the toilets at the required scale for 110 million by 2019 is inadequate. The requirements for some of the key components for toilet as assessed by some studies reveals a requirement of - expected demand- 800 lakh pans and doors till Oct ’ 19 for 80 million ( 8 crores) IHHLs. Rural Masons- 240 million (24 crore) person days of demand from SBMG alone; Approx annual demand of 0.5 million ( around 4.5 lakh) rural masons over the next 2 financial years. Our assessment suggest that in terms of finances current resources are inadequate for the market to be ready to supply resulting in both compromise of quality and sustainability of usage. Any thoughts/insights from the group on this would be useful.

Many of you have requested for the paper. We should have a draft ready for dissemination next month and will be happy to circulate it.
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  • Ashok
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

There is at least one building centre in Bihar, which has got more than 800 good quality bio toilets ready in stock for last 18 months but no body is ready to buy. He is rerouting the prefab components to other buildings so that he is able to salvage his money, whatever he can. There are at least three more manufacturing units with the required skills and technology to make good quality toilets in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand which have been discouraged to other business for lack of demand of toilets. In really on the ground, there is demand for poor quality toilets only. If any villager comes forward to buy these better toilets, they are told by the government personnel that if they do so, even the basic subsidy would not be paid to them. (Lena hai tou lo nahi to apna banao) Sanjay has put it very aptly.
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  • andreshuesoWA
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Re: From missing market incentives to misaligned incentives What is choking India’s rural sanitation progress?

I agree with many of the points highlighted in this debate, and wanted to contribute with this really good resource, a ground-truthing exercise using immersions that was conducted by Praxis India (with IDS and WaterAid) and that gives very interesting insights of the realities at the village level. It includes a policy and practice note with practical ideas going forward: www.communityledtotalsanitation.org/reso...n-immersive-research

Thanks,

Andrés Hueso
WaterAid
twitter.com/andreshuesoWA

Andrés Hueso
Senior Policy Analyst – Sanitation
WaterAid

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