By Anisha Menath
Three different ways to deal with sanitation and water management in rural communities is through (1) government procedures, (2) private/NGO partnerships, and finally (3) improving awareness in villages. These various approaches are prevalent UCLA Project RISHI conducts in Vadamanappakkam as goals of providing clean, safe water and sanitary washrooms are vital to the wellbeing of the village community.
One case of government action is the WASH Program in rural India which is overseen by the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. While this program aims to improve sanitation and hygiene in rural areas, there is a the lack of resources and data standardization. Two possible approaches are to make data collected by funds available for the public and NGOs to employ in their initiatives and to separate political and technical authority to reduce corruption and promote accountability. This can be used to help implement similar methodologies in Vadamanappakkam as open data can help to analyze the specific need of the village with involvement from the community instead of at the larger government level.
An example of private/NGO partnerships is the WaterAID program based in the UK that partners with NGOs to provide different sanitation and infrastructure services. While their developmental aid has focused more on socio-economically disadvantaged urban areas, it can also be applied to Project RISHI’s focus. While it is beneficial to reach out to NGOs, it can be a highly expensive route and therefore a RISHI-funded and maintained centralized sanitation center is the most sustainable route. However, working with an NGO will be required for construction and RISHI could look into fully funding this option. This will focus on the goals of the local community and be regulated by their own neighbors instead of outside entities.
Lastly, raising awareness in villages is an important aspect of sanitation in rural communities especially as it relates to gender. The lack of safe and sanitary bathrooms disproportionately affects girls and women as it risks menstrual health, pregnancy, and physical safety. The most important application this has to Vadamanapakan is to raise the number of women in leadership positions to influence positive development goals from the perspective of those affected.
Overall, these different approaches to water and sanitation initiatives can be greatly useful for the goals of Project RISHI. If interested, the articles are linked below take a further look into any initiatives or further case studies!