Behaviour Change in WASH


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  • Depinder Kapur is currently Director Water Programme at Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi.
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Behaviour Change in WASH

India WASH Forum News

India WASH Forum stands for an independent credible voice in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. WASH News and Policy Update is a bi-monthly e newsletter of the India WASH Forum. It is an open platform for engagement on contemporary issues in WASH sector in India and elsewhere.

We are conscious of the need to engage with and understand other larger debates in the social and economic development scenario, of which drinking water and sanitation is a part. Hence we include in our news analysis and policy updates, events and developments from other related development fields, besides the WASH sector. We invite readers to share their experiences and reports that can be disseminated from this WASH Policy Newsletter.

The brutal murder of Parveen Rehman came as a shock and a reminder to what ails the WASH sector and what is so often ignored. Parveen worked quietly with Karachi informal city areas(she hated to call them slums given the life that these inhabitations emanated with) and her hard work on mapping, her understanding of the real estate mafia and land grabbing, her sense of humor despite great odds in life including her family being a refugee twice over in her own life, her concern for the field workers and staff – offers so much to learn from. In recognition of her life and work, there is a popular call from fellow colleagues and development professional - for initiating an international award in the name of Perveen Rehman, to promote and recognise activists who promote community based WASH sector development approaches, in difficult conditions and often at great personal risk.

An audio interview of her work in the slums of Karachi and the land mafia operations presents her insights into how the land grab in Karachi slums is an organised activity and not
The situation of land grabbing is quite similar to India and perhaps in several other countries. The illegal transactions are huge, not visible and seldom in the knowledge of people like us. Perveen gives excellent details of land grabbing in Karachi through different mode of operations. She explains the mind boggling sums of money involved in first land grabbing and then sale and resale every year of the lands in urban slums of Karachi. Land grabbers purchase some land and grab the rest from the existing settlers first. Together with the entire government machinery and police, everyone gets a cut in all the land sale and purchase dealings that are done on paper that is not a legal document but is an accepted land transfer document in the slum areas of Karachi. The cuts from commission are so lucrative for the establishment, private builders and police, that this system flourishes in Karachi and perhaps elsewhere in the world.
When slum dwellers do not want to stand up to demand water and sanitation and other basic services – it is because eviction threat is the major concern. Hence people chose to keep quiet, pay the pradhan his cut in rent and buying a jhuggi, pay the police and municipality protection money against eviction, paying high charge for water and electricity supply in the illegal settlements. Not demanding water supply and sanitation, schools and health services, ration and other entitlements from the government – is not a result of lack of awareness of health benefits of WASH or a Behaviour Change Barrier, but a fear of eviction. Perveen in her interview rightly defines who the mafia is – it is all the government agencies, police and political parties working with private builders – they all together constitute the mafia. Criminals and thugs only work for them and exist because of their patronage.
We continue focus on Behaviour Change in WASH. In our previous newsletter we had shown the limitations of marketing approaches borrowed from commercial advertising business models to promote behaviour change in WASH. We had shown the importance of addressing underlying barriers, socially endorsed and expressed in terms of self perception: can prevent some of the poorest and marginal communities to adopt and practice improved hygiene behaviours. Commercial marketing approaches that see people as consumers, has failed miserably in social development. Assuming knowledge and solutions already exist and only implementation challenges remain is a big mistake. In this issue we focus on the assumptions and misconceptions behind using Bollywood celebrities as WASH Ambassadors. International development agencies are not aware of the change in how film stars in Bollywood hindi films have evolved and how the filmstars of yesteryears are less of stars today and more as brand ambassadors of consumer products they endorse. They are not even recognized as stars in the large parts of India like Bihar and UP where local filmstars in local language are more popular than the Bollywood filmstars. WASH campaigns using Bollywood celebrities fail to reach to the rural audience in north and western Indian states(forget about south and eastern India). The urban middle class and non resident Indian appeal that most Bollywood flimstars have today, makes them divorced from reality of rural India and a failure as brand ambassadors for WASH.
The work done by Perveen Rehman is also Behaviour Change work of a higher order. Understanding why people accept the living conditions of squatters and what they can do to make life liveable. We often forget the very hard and dangerous work that grassroot workers do in changing behaviours and challenging the status quo. In our world of today, style and brand marketing approaches, recourse to developing tool kits and inviting film stars and posters and IEC. Salute to Perveen and others like her who carry on despite all odds. The murder of Perveen Rehman tells us that some of most successful and relevant approaches not only of BCC but all other development interventions - may meet this fate. An important indicator of success for BCC in WASH and other development programmes – could be the way those in power clamp down and dismantle the interventions that may threaten to change the status quo. If you are successful and receive a lot of funding and government support - then perhaps you may need to get worried!!

We share report of the round table meeting on WASH in Schools by UNICEF and a report of the national workshop on community led approach in NBA. One of the recommendations of the national NBA workshop states that “Incentive payments should be given only after habitations have been validly verified as ODF and not before. This is critical. At States’ discretion the incentive payment can be either to the habitation community as a whole or to individual households through bank transfers as in MGNREGA.“ While one can understand the spirit behind this suggestion of paying incentive/subsidy money of NBA after certified ODF – to expect that people will spend Rs.9,100 from their own pockets to first make a toilet and then claim subsidy later from NBA and MNREGA, has not worked out at scale anywhere in India and where it was pushed as in the Nirmal Gram Puraskar, it was a massive failure. This strategy may result in toilets not being built. The remedy proposed for the failure of subsidy driven supply side incentives, may also not work. What is needed is to incentivise genuine efforts of owner built and maintained toilets in India, with timely subsidy.

Life in a slum is comparable to life in most urban households in the country, according to Census 2011 data on living conditions in slums. Depending on how one looks at it, ‘slumming it’ may just have acquired a whole new meaning — either most Indian towns live the life of slums or the quality of life in slums is improving. While the lack of privacy, sanitation and sewage remain a concern in slums, Census data on ‘Housing Stock, Amenities and Assets in Slums’, show how this lack of physical space hasn’t cramped aspirations in slums. Consider this: 74% slum households have access to tap water while 70.6% urban households have access to the same. It means, you have a better chance of drinking tap water if you lived in a slum than if you were outside one. Critics like Amitabh Kundu pick up the argument to say that if this is indeed a true picture of growing prosperity in slums of India, then a decline in slum population means a shrinkage of space for inclusive growth and hence a cause of worry!!
According to the report, around 68 million Indians live in slums. In 2001, 23.5% of households in urban areas were in slums; it has now come down to 17.4%. The all-India figures for access to drinking water, latrines and electricity suggest a closing gap or, in one case, even better service access between slum households and their non-slum counterparts: (a) 65% of slum households have access to treated tapwater as compared to 61% in other non-slum households; (b) 66% of slum households have access to latrines within premises as compared to 85% of other urban households; (c) 67% of slum households have bathrooms with 37% of them having closed drainage and sewerage facilities as compared to 80% and 40% respectively in non-slum urban households; and (d) 91% of slum households have access to electricity as main source of electricity as compared to 93% of urban households. However, if our interest is in the impact of these services on vulnerability faced by the urban poor, we must both nuance the category of “access” as well as insist on considerations of quality of service delivery.
This appears to imply that the delivery mechanism for treated water works better for slums as compared to other households. Two important points to be noted here are the number of households sharing treated tap water connections and the real burden of the cost of these services on households. For the former, the interpretation of what the census measures as “access to treated tap water” in slum areas comprises in significant part of communal and shared taps. “Access” thus must be qualified as being shared across a number of households as opposed to non-slum households where it is highly likely that a significant proportion of households have individual connections (Centre for Science and Environment 2011). Detailed data tables for slum households indicate that nearly 29% of access is not within the households but “near from premises” and a further 6% is “far” from the household. Therefore, at least 35% of the slum households access treated water from a shared source outside their household. This has significant implications for the quantum of water available for use per household in slum areas than in non-slum areas. In case of access to latrines, a further quality consideration is worth mentioning. The data suggests that 58% of all slum households have a “flush/pour flush latrine” within the household. Yet only 48% have either treated or untreated tapwater within the household. The possible gap (of nearly 10%, or 1.3 million households) indicates households where a physically built flush latrine may or may not have sufficient water to function effectively.
Questions of quality and access together, therefore, seem to be prevalent strongly in both slum and non-slum households. Such an interpretation of the data rather than one that sees the “narrowing of a gap” can aid policies and programmes to better target actually existing gaps in access and quality of services. What the data suggest, as argued above, is that a geographical focus on slum households for interventions such as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in the Twelfth Plan may result in significant exclusions.
The specter of jobless growth in India has been highlighted by the ILO in a recent report. Right from 1991, “as global and domestic economic conditions improved, increased labour productivity became the driver of growth in the region. Between 2007 and 2011, labour productivity increased by 6.4% on an average, while employment expanded by just 1%. This situation is prominent in India, where total employment grew by only 0.1% during five years till 2009-10 (from 457.9 million in 2004-05 to 458.4 million in 2009-10), while labour productivity grew by more than 34% in total during this period.” South Asia has witnessed a fall in female labour force participation in recent years: “This has been most pronounced in India, where the participation rate for women fell from 49.4% in 2004-05 to 37.8% in 2009-10 for rural females, and from 24.4% to 19.4% for urban females. This drop in participation can only partly be explained by the strong increase in enrolment in education, because it has been evident across all age groups.”

We share a good analysis of World Bank supported development agenda in the article “Development Delusion”. This gives a good account of the working of the World Bank, its ability to develop and promote privatisation and profits. “Proponents of World Bank are always quick to point out successes in infant mortality and school enrolment in developing countries. But such gains are dwarfed by the losses that these countries have suffered over the same period: developing countries have lost roughly $480bn each year in potential GDP as a result of structural adjustment, and another $160bn each year to transfer pricing and other forms of foreign tax evasion legalised as part of the neoliberal package.”
Michael and Susan Dell Foundation brought out its new approach to India’s water and sanitation crisis. The approach is about urban water and sanitation and is informed by the Systems Framework of analysis of complex issues that is currently very popular in the west in academia and with private an public agencies trying to address issues that involve multiple stakeholders and complex external pressures. In the two part note the approach concludes its findings for India: “Alternately, some local governments have little money set aside to support the urban poor. Supposing that most families live in recognized slums and want to construct individual toilets, then we can assess a bigger role for microfinance and move to the next step: evaluating families’ capacity to qualify for and manage microloans.”
We include an interview with Piers Cross on WASH sector cooperation in a historical perspective. “It has been initiatives outside the water sector that have had the greatest impact on water co-operation. The designation of a specific MDG for water and then the World Summit agreement on an MDG for sanitation have probably driven greater co-operation than internally generated effort.
Depinder Kapur is Director Water Programme at Centre for Science and Environment. He has taight at Shiv Nadar University and has lead the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform(SCBP) of National Institute of Urban Affairs. His professional engagements have been with AKRSP(Program Officer Forestry), SPWD(Sr. Program Officer), CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator) and as an independent consultant.

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