Innovations in WASH (Thematic Discussion by SuSanA India Chapter)


  • Zdzislaw
  • Zdzislaw's Avatar
  • Posts: 7
  • Likes received: 2

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

I will write a few words from the point of view of the innovator / inventor. I have developed a portable device for personal hygiene in disaster and emergency conditions: a hand-washing tap, a shower and a bidet / shattaf in one device that I named HandyShower. It is designed in accordance with the guidelines of Oxfam and IFRC published on the website in the part: Household Handwashing Device. It is small, easy to use, durable and water-saving. I already have a working prototype and I would like to test them in real conditions. Although I have many contacts to people who deal with this problem on a daily basis (obtained at WoldWaterWeek in Stockholm or Aidex in Brussels), I have a serious problem to persuade someone to test and share their comments. From the point of view of the inventor, the most important thing is the user's assessment. Why it is so difficult to persuade humanitarian organizations to test new products. How to overcome this barrier?
The following user(s) like this post: cecile, DianeKellogg
You need to login to reply
  • Paramita
  • Paramita's Avatar
  • Posts: 4
  • Karma: 1
  • Likes received: 2

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Thank you all for your insights. I have tried to sum it up:
I understand from the discussion thread that, if innovations in WASH have to be sustained, the innovator has to not only have enough recognition but also some kind of financial gain, though commercialization should not be the main driver; the innovations should take feedback from the users and the behavior change demanded should not be too big and existing beliefs have to be taken into consideration. Process innovation plays a big role in the WASH sector, which is tough due to the fact that various moving parts have to be orchestrated.
Would be happy to get perspectives from those involved in policy making and monitoring implementation on ground.
You need to login to reply
  • Nilanjana
  • User
  • Likes received: 1

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter


This is regarding the invitation to inputs sent by you to Dr. Kaustuv Bandyopadhyay (PRIA) regarding your thematic discussion on innovations in WASH. I, Nilanjana Bhattacharjee, will be responding on behalf of PRIA. While I have registered on your website, somehow my login has not been activated. I am therefore, attaching my reply on this email (see below) in the hope that it contributes to the discussion fruitfully.

Nilanjana Bhattacharjee


Dear friends,
The very helpful and insightful introduction to this discussion identifies the main actors of WASH ecosystem to comprise government organisations, donors, private sector, academia, NGOs, social enterprises, innovators and entrepreneurs. I would like to introduce another main actor, a direct stakeholder – the communities. The people.

It was also mentioned in the introduction to the topic that for the expansion of the WASH infrastructure, services and its scale, the support from innovative technology and business solutions was needed. However, all kinds of innovations, especially external in nature such as technology, must be embedded in a community’s social infrastructure to be functional. The community must be ready, aware and able to understand and respond to such innovations. There needs to be a social infrastructure in place for a settlement of any kind to absorb physical as well as technical innovations. Empowering communities to be the partners, if not producers, in innovation and spreading agency, understanding, knowledge and power horizontally would enable sustainable change of any kind.

Borrowing from this belief, PRIA identifies one of the pertinent barriers to WASH related innovations as the missing link of people, of communities in it. The most significant aspect of SBM-U or even the universalisation of sanitation services is the demand from people. So far, however, the approach has been sporadic or unevenly sprawled where government efforts have been dominantly supply driven. For example, Municipalities have asked for applications to supply toilet creation. Even if we go with this simplistic approach of supply to sporadic demand, the campaigns for the same on behalf of the local governments have been more ‘visible’ or present in relatively better off areas in cities. Not enough campaigns have been taken up where sanitation services are acutely lacking, not enough informal settlements have been included in such campaigns. Furthermore, the supply focussed approach has created physical infrastructures such as toilets, many of which are in areas with no drainage/ water connectivity. Such “toilets” are now being used by the homeless of poor communities as shelters for their entire families.

One of the ways PRIA worked with this issue was to adopt the approach of nurturing communities (especially informal settlements) and their organisation in a manner that they not only generate demand but also ensure that utilisation is high. The idea was to carve an approach in which the behaviour change component is inherent and not external. This was done by setting up Settlement Improvement Committees (SICs) across all informal settlements (slums) in Jhansi, Ajmer and Muzaffarpur. Through these SICs of locally recruited leaders, PRIA aimed to facilitate a more holistic approach to the demanding of WASH as well as other types of basic services by socially aware community members themselves. Especially keeping in mind the indispensable need to organise the urban poor, our processes through the SICs were aimed at the formation of local institutions that identify and advocate for the interests and needs of the urban poor. 250 SICs were formed under PRIA’s Engaged Citizens Responsive City project and these SICs are developed as well as managed by the residents of each settlement. Instead of supply driven imposition of behaviour change, the SIC process focussed on indigenous knowledge and solutions of local problems to ensure community ownership of the settlement’s sanitation system and the sustainability of this innovation. There was a conscious effort to involve local residents, youth and women as members of these committees to find solutions through local knowledge, practices and needs by working with other institutions.

SIC members along with local resident enumerators surveyed their respective settlements, applied their generational knowledge for resource mapping, used mobile-based technology to generate authentic data about the current situation of settlements with respect to access to sanitation services. The generation of data by the communities themselves ensured the sustainability of positive changes unlike enumerations conducted by third party institutions which are divorced from the intricacies of contextual realities. It also led to amplified awareness generation.

These local committees or organisations are being strengthened not only through meetings but participatory activities such as Participatory Settlement Enumeration, transect walks and regular validation of current status versus initial benchmark of sanitation services. These organisations, after having generated and analysed their data, are also preparing proposals which articulate their demands to the municipalities and local leaders based on their needs. These processes and follow-ups are a part of a demand based and locally aware citizens of informal settlements – filling a huge gap of the lack of awareness and creating behaviour change out of the simple strategy of change in partnership with the community members themselves. PRIA’s role was limited to facilitation and technical knowledge, but the identification of problems, generation and evaluation of data, and consequent articulation of demands came from the people who decided to be active partners of development instead of passive recipients.

Sanitation and WASH related realities, especially in peri-urban areas are deeply grounded in traditional practices. These are influenced by gender, caste, class which become barriers of such innovations. While it is challenging to address these age-old customs and practices, this is where organising communities by a third party (in this case, PRIA) to create a safe deliberation forum such as SICs, help in detaching the space of discussion from power dynamics just enough, where all are seen as equally knowledgeable while keeping its roots in local realities.

The equal agency of voice given to each SIC from different neighbourhoods ensure the representation of all types of people from all social intersectionalities. The representation translates to equal power when each individual household has a role to play in the data generation and validation process. The inclusive nature of the processes help democratically negotiate sanitation issues among all settlements and come up with solutions together. While technical knowledge and solutions of WASH can be accessed through third party experts, the active association and consideration of the people, who are the direct stakeholders, and their increased interaction with local governments is the only way to ensure the sustainability and future innovations of WASH.

The barrier to any innovation is its scaling- up and sustainability. The social innovation of SICs can be the foundation on which the physical and technical and be formed to secure a functional, sustainable and inclusive sanitation system.
The following user(s) like this post: nityajacob
You need to login to reply
  • vipul
  • Posts: 1
  • Likes received: 2

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Dear all,

I feel the key problem that WASH innovators face is towards building business models that are not only commercially viable but also inclusive. Most of the revenue models are dependent on user fees or where the customer is also the consumer which limits financial viability considering there is a large segment of the users with limited “ability to pay” which is further compounded by problem around “willingness to pay”. Another factor is this sector has provided services for free, or given subsidies, that makes building a business case that much harder. Take the SBM subsidy of toilets for instance.

Private enterprises should innovate to diversify their revenue model by layering varied revenue streams; however, barriers exist beyond the firm’s business model. These include a limitation on demand/market data and insights, high cost and inefficient last mile distribution, low population density in case of rural areas, limited availability of low-cost capital, ULB approach, and procurement challenges to find and work with innovators and develop viable engagement models etc.

Most of the innovations in WASH at the moment are early stage and there is a limitation on how they can participate in ULBs procurement process. Either the innovations are not proven at a large scale to be attractive to an ULB or they do not have the history, both financially as well as in implementation, to meet the strict procurement guidelines of the ULBs. Also, as stated above, its critical for innovations to have business models that are both commercially viable as well as inclusive for it to align with priorities and commitments of ULBs. In cases, where innovators have come together to work with the ULBs, the efficiency and effectiveness of such partnerships haven’t been very encouraging. The problem companies not working with ULBs to fund innovative a solution through CSR initiatives is a classic chicken and egg problem.

I would like to seek your views on whether the availability of CSR funding attract innovations to work with the ULBs or is it the other way around where the existence of clear and defined engagements of innovators with ULBs attracts CSR funding?
The following user(s) like this post: pkjha, nityajacob
You need to login to reply
  • nityajacob
  • nityajacob's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Water Policy Analyst and Author; Moderator of the SuSanA India Chapter; WASH Lead at Swasti
  • Posts: 210
  • Karma: 6
  • Likes received: 103

Re: [WG4] SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH. Comments invited

Dear friends,

This is a reminder that the India Chapter of SuSanA, that is hosted by the India Sanitation Coalition, is running the thematic discussion on Innovations in WASH. We invite you to comment on the discussion. The second topic opened last week and we are still seeking your comment on the second topic : I would like to seek your views on whether the availability of CSR funding attract innovations to work with the ULBs or is it the other way around where the existence of clear and defined engagements of innovators with ULBs attracts CSR funding?

Please visit , login and post your comment. If you want to reply to this post on the forum, simply send your contribution to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Regards, Nitya Jacob, Coordinator
You need to login to reply
  • VikasR
  • VikasR's Avatar
  • Posts: 6
  • Likes received: 0

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Hi, I feel it's the other way round.. It's clear and uncomplicated, to the point communication, devoid of any jargon that will help!

Being associated with the wash sector for long, I've been seeing this as is such a big menace, that we dont put our minds on doing something about.

Our quest to wander on with too much idealism is what dosent do us any good!
If we can just get to the point in not so many words....
You need to login to reply
  • AjitSeshadri
  • AjitSeshadri's Avatar
  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions , Designation- Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Head- Environment, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, NGO, New Delhi, INDIA , Consultant located at present at Chennai, India
  • Posts: 163
  • Likes received: 29

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Our impressions on the notings on Theme 2 & 3 are as below :

1. I feel that the business models are not commercially viable because each initiative do not pay back to communities in way of revenues or gains. No R O I ..

Indirect gains by way of sustainsbily confidence levels being up graded is also to be clubbed with this.

2. Agreeing that for repaying SBM subsidy of toilets, RLBs Rural Local Bodies should innovate to diversify their revenue model by layering varied revenue streams Successful spaces where Toilet complexes have sustained. place them in say categories For 6mths to 1 year For more than 2 years..

Caretakers ought to be given freedom to innovate and utilise the spaces for community good.. eg By having : ATM. Communication Centre. SubPost Office. Police Chowki. Chldrn PlaySchool. Daycare. Readng Rm others

For areas where toilets are difficult to be made for varied reasons.. Pl go one step towards making dedicated spaces for community for doing Controlled Open Defecation at those spaces only..

At both these spaces - have it done in open but with some security lighting. privacy duly administered etc. Have them in 2 spaces each working for 3-4 weeks.. ie monthly alternated and the earlier one is maintained while the second one is in use.

And human-sludge( nght soil) is co composted with cow dung .farm litter. bio mass etc.. This manure is a resource for use in farms.. Periodical lab tests on qlty / purity done ..

May be community feeling the +ves will switch to use Toilet complexes which can be made in those areas, in next phase.

More freedom is given to urban - For ULB approach to find and work with innovators. One needs to develop viable engagement models etc.

Most of the innovations in WASH do not become successful.. Why ..

What is in it for ULB / RLB Officials to gain from No rewards. No promotion.No increments in pay etc.

Quoting from an experience - INNOVATION : A WWTplant (ex Nallah Drain flow ) was done on its bank for 20 kl per day flow in 2002 for @ 2.5 L INR.. All funds from Residents, only a nod existed from MCD at NCR.

On noting the benefits- so many.. a bit more funds was raised and the nod became more firm in next years

In 2018 ( 16:yrs hence ) the WWT plant has sustained with an out flow of recycled / re use water @ 60 to 80 kl per day.

It is used for irrgtng parks 20 Nos +, spaces, lawns 8 to 10 acres= 30000 to 40000 sqm of greens.trees.etc. of urban greens all the year round.

Revolving around this initiative, more greens and apt green-scaping were added at the effluent colony.

Also, as stated above, it is critical for innovations to have business models that are E- Envrnmntly friendly. F- commercially viable, S- socially rewarding, G- aptly governed as well as inclusive for it to align with priorities and commitments of both ULBs & RLBs.

Also at every stage at the initial period and periodically reviewal & addressal is to be done.

Awareness, participation and ownership, responsibility of the initiative should be present in communities at all times.

O&M practices meaning operation and maintainance to be taken care regularly. If it is not done then community will get no benefit , this will make the community do the efforts. Then they start to gain with bith direct and in direct benefits.. Even the area's property rates too depend on this factor. Ie more greens the qulty of living is bettered etc.

The impressions expressed is for doing good in communities etc..

With well wishes.

Prof Ajit Seshadri Vels University. Chennai .
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
You need to login to reply
  • jvbaring
  • jvbaring's Avatar
  • Posts: 5
  • Likes received: 1

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

There a so called degree of innovation in WASH and the inventor's resolve to test his prototype. When I am challenge to do innovation in WASH, then I do it either there is fund or none. There are many innovation that dont even need funding which are just dedicated to a specific need. As an inventor, when i developed this simple innovation, I feel there is no need to promote it as it is just simple. I just need somebody to tell me to do simple things and I do it without much fanfare. Its different when I developed big innovation that could clean up or treat a community sewage system, then that is where I promote it. Just like the my bread and butter now, which are my wastewater and sewerage equipment, you can visit my FB page Floijess Watertech Inc. One simple innovation that I have done that I done promote is the multi user urinal. I make it for rotary club and I fund it myself and we donated it to the community. attach is a picture of the urinal with us using it
You need to login to reply
  • Marijn Zandee
  • Marijn Zandee's Avatar
  • No longer working in WASH, but still following the forum.
  • Posts: 261
  • Karma: 22
  • Likes received: 134

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Dear all,
I know I have posted a lot of what I am about to write earlier, but I think it can contribute so I will repeat myself.

It seems that the discussion is predominantly about the very complicated problem of the lack of toilet ownership and use in India; the sanitation component of WASH.

When we look potential private sector involvement in the sanitation sector, I think it is crucial to realize that there are at least 2 or 3 distinctly different markets. These markets are very different from each other; therefore, I think, that lumping them as one “sanitation market” in discussions is counterproductive. In an earlier white paper published on this forum we (Dorthee and I) distinguished the following markets:

1) Toilet interfaces and stand alone solutions for rural households. These are the interfaces the household uses, either an “outhouse” type toilet or a toilet bowl in a bathroom. (We called those “front end services” in the paper).
2) Treatment and final disposal. This is a market for sewage and FSM treatment and safe, final disposal of effluents and by products. (We called these “back-end services”)
3) Depending on the situation, there could be a market for collection and conveyance. (Emptying services and FSM transport trucks).

Probably, a more complete analysis would split the first point into at least 2-3 different sub-markets.

Each market has a different set of customers and providers, responding to different incentives. For example, the first market will mainly be one between households and providers of toilets. The second one involves local governments and either utilities or private companies. Finally, the third one will be between house owners and providers of emptying services. (Note that the government is involved in all markets to set rules.)

A full analysis here of all markets goes too far, and would not do justice to the complexities of a vast country such as India. However, I hope that future discussions can benefit from starting off with looking at which market we are really discussing. With regard to this discussion, innovations needed in different markets will be vastly different.

Also, let’s not get too carried away with the idea that technical innovation will somehow make this problem easy to solve. It is mainly going to be a lot of hard work. In my view, this is a generational project.If India manages to get close to 100% sanitation coverage (including safe treatment and disposal) by 2035, it would already be an incredible achievement.

Marijn Zandee

E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The following user(s) like this post: Elisabeth
You need to login to reply
  • sunetralala
  • sunetralala's Avatar
  • Posts: 14
  • Karma: 1
  • Likes received: 4

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Dear All,

I would like to submit the following with regards to innovation in the WASH sector in Cambodia, particularly aimed at strengthening the supply chain at local levels.

While many Cambodian SMEs provide nutrition, agriculture, and WASH products and services necessary for rural Cambodian consumers to improve and sustain nutritional status of pregnant women and children under 2, these SMEs are not operating to their full potential. To address the growth needs of nutrition, agriculture and WASH SMEs in project-supported areas, SNV under the NOURISH project (NOURISH takes a multi-sectorial approach integrating health/nutrition, WASH and agriculture) has developed a Business Service Center (BSC) concept that provides a layer of capacity development and business support for SMEs through one or more entities. NOURISH consulted with a variety of potential partners and stakeholders to help define potential roles, functions and responsibilities of BSCs. Several models were identified and have been introduced thus far, to identify the most viable models for further development and rollout.

Purpose of Business Service Centers:
A Business Service Center (BSC) is a business entity to stimulate and sustain the growth of selected small and medium enterprises (SME) in Pursat, Battambang and Siem Reap to meet the demand for WASH, agriculture and nutrition products and services. BSCs are intended to provide services to Cambodian SMEs to help increase their revenues while making just-in-time impact in the lives of “first 1,000 days” families with nutrition, agriculture, and WASH products and services.

Business Service Centers Functions and Services:
BSCs help SMEs to increase sales and grow revenues. They do this in a variety of standard and innovative ways, including, but not limited to:
• Building better understanding of the market potential and pricing strategy
• Aligning with government and development priorities and opportunities; helping SMEs liaise with Government regulations
• Improving marketing and brand development capacities
• Connecting SMEs with financial institutions on credit options
• Diversifying product lines and bundling where appropriate
• Developing quality standards and oversight mechanisms
• Networking and linking key stakeholders via mobile & virtual platforms
• Providing other business capacity strengthening, i.e., training on business development, business plan, technical support, leadership, etc.
• Organizing tradeshows

BSC Models
The NOURISH project has identified different BSC models that have been introduced thus far:
i) Expanding Small-sized Businesses Model (ESB): The Expanding Small-sized Businesses (ESB) model aims to build on the work (and value) of successful small-sized businesses (in WASH and/or agriculture) that are already aligned with SMEs targeted by the NOURISH project. The model has built-in incentives, e.g. by bundling their own products and services with other SMEs products and services, BSC-ESB can grow their own businesses by increasing SMEs’ sales. The challenge with the ESB model is these BSCs will tend to be sector specific and may not be interested in cross-sectoral support, e.g. an agriculture BSC may not be interested in supporting WASH SMEs and vice versa. NOURISH has identified two successful sanitation SME in Siem Reap and Pursat to use for this model.

ii) Association Model: The Association model aims to improve the capacity and reach of existing associations (e.g. provincial Chambers of Commerce, FASMEC , etc.) to provide a sector-independent BSC that delivers business development services to SMEs. The challenge for the Associations model will be to ensure the BSC provides enough value to SMEs so that SMEs will pay for the BSC services. NOURISH has identified Cambodian Water Association for this model.

iii) University-based Model: University-based BSCs model aims to offer tailored business learning sessions at local universities to WASH and agriculture SMEs in the three provinces, in addition to offering an on-site support through field mentorship by an experienced faculty members and internship programmes for near-graduates. Such models have been set up at the University of Battambang and Build Bright University connecting to existing MBA programs in Siem Reap and Battambang.

NOURISH’s role:
NOURISH plays a facilitative role in BSC operations, seeking to learn lessons on effective implementation in each model. NOURISH’s tasks include:
• Defining BSC concept and approaches
• Identifying and/or contracting BSCs
• Contributing to the development/approval of the plans of action for each BSC to accomplish specific milestones and targets
• Organizing Kick-off Workshop to activate five BSCs
• Coordinating with BSCs to contribute to the implementation of the voucher initiative in project supported geographical areas
• Developing monitoring framework for BSCs to include: Monthly progress checks; Baseline, mid-term, and endline sales data of targeted SMEs; Post-pilot audits of BSCs relevant to BSC activity operations
• Funding assistance for BSCs, to include: Facilitating links with financial institutions; Grant and contract seeking assistance
• Assist Business-to-Government (B2G) and Business-to-Business (B2B) relations building for BSCs
• Integrating BSC activities with targeted demand creation activities conducted through NOURISH project at the community level (e.g. CLTS triggering for improved sanitation, Community Dialogues, first 1,000 days village fairs, etc.)

Sunetra Lala
WASH Sector Leader
SNV Cambodia
You need to login to reply
  • lucasdengel
  • lucasdengel's Avatar
  • Physician (Dr. med.) by educational qualification, working in public hygiene, environmental health and organic farming for the last >30 years. Running a company called EcoPro, based in Auroville in Tamil Nadu, India - see website.
  • Posts: 24
  • Karma: 2
  • Likes received: 17

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Brilliant analysis, Marijn. Thanks for this.
Dr. Lucas Dengel
Aurosarjan Complex, Auroshilpam
Auroville - 605101, India
website EcoPro:
personal e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
You need to login to reply
  • nityajacob
  • nityajacob's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Water Policy Analyst and Author; Moderator of the SuSanA India Chapter; WASH Lead at Swasti
  • Posts: 210
  • Karma: 6
  • Likes received: 103

Re: Thematic Discussion Series: Innovations in WASH, SuSanA India Chapter

Thank you Sunetra. Can you or somebody else on the Forum explain how this can be contextualised for India
You need to login to reply
Share this thread:
Recently active users. Who else has been active?
Time to create page: 0.318 seconds