Some Stories

I like to explore world through my lenses and wants to tell many stories from my perspective, passion and wanderlust.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Challenges of Low Usage and Poorly Constructed Toilets in Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan

                                                            by Amit Kumar,2016

Total Sanitation Campaign is in practice since 1999 but failed to achieve its targets and is still going at a snail’s pace though Modi ji has tried to reenergised the campaign as Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.This study is a part of DFID SWASTH Project where I worked as consultant and closely observed Water Governance of Public Health Engineering Department and the construction & usage of these toilets in targeted communities. I visited districts like Bhagalpur, Munger, Khagaria, Banka, Jamui & Begusarai in Bihar to observed that even if toilets were there still usage was low. This photo story tried to look into usage and quality of toilets constructed for APL & BPL communities.


                                Poor Quality of Construction has also diluted the campaign 

Many factors are responsible for hampering the progress of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, from lack of sound planning, ineffective and limited IEC (information, education and communication) campaigns to level of poor governance at the grass-root level  and also funding & resources are not sufficient and timely available.

                 People are using state sponsored toilets as storage system so where is IEC

Also many people say that they don’t want this rural pan PHED toilets but wants septic tank one which uses more water and cost wise is also not feasible from state sponsoring model.

                                  Really how people are going to use such poorly constructed toilets

 Some traditional people considers houses too holy places and don’t wants to accommodate any space for this state sponsored toilets. Other beneficiaries of toilets say that they will use them only during rainy season and prefers Open Defecation otherwise.

                            Toilets were even left incomplete due to insufficient funds 

Most Beneficiaries says that one fifth of constructed toilets are of so poor quality & with incomplete structure that they can be hardly be used.

               At some places there were no bricks in this poorly constructed defunct toilets

 Poor construction quality, incomplete work and diversion of funds are responsible for more than 30 per cent toilets lying defunct as per studies. 

                      Community Toilets are in such poor condition & looks like historical ruins

Community toilets too are in terrible condition as there is very little usage and no maintenance at all.

Some positives also i come through like Community Sanitation awareness by NGOs with techniques like Community Led Total Sanitation

A CLTS expert mapping the ODF in village and explaining to community how it affects them.

Also in flood prone districts like khagaria these public funded toilets get washed every year in floods. In these areas i came across more effective ECOSAN toilets sponsored by donors like DFID & NGOS and these low cost toilets where superstructure is mostly made of bamboos do help communities in agriculture as they can use waste as manure.

                                    An Ecosan Toilet in Nepal Tola of  Khagaria District   

Changing behaviours is a huge challenge and requires engagement of community-based organizations and community leaders to mobilize community support for this massive sanitation drive & also to ensure usage of these constructed toilets. And some sort accountability mechanism and time bound targets has to set in this process.

Friday 23 October 2015

Lessons To be Learned From Nepal Disaster

I visited Nepal five months after the devastating earthquake of April 25th, 2015 that caused the death of 8,884 people and now it is on the road to recovery and rehabilitation.The purpose of my visit was to study  disaster & to look for areas & strategies to plan for activities for reconstruction and rehabilitation phase for some of the donor agencies who want to contribute in that.

And when i landed in the beautiful valley of Kathmandu its greenery charmed me & I agree with Times magazine report that it is one of the greenest cities in the world.

The earthquake had its scattered impacts in the city that i came across in places like Thamel,Durbar Square & Sundhara.

  Nepal's rich cultural heritage also suffered a devastating blow from the massive earthquake that tore through the country. The nine-storey Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction in the city's Durbar square with its spiral staircase of 200 steps, was reduced to just its base.

  This is what happened to a UNESCO World Heritage site, Dharahara tower,the  tallest building in Nepal with a height of 62m in the disaster .

More than 16,000 public and private schools - about half of the country's total were damaged in disaster, according to a UN report. So i visited few schools in Kavrepalanchowk district to see the extent of damage & the transition to recovery & rehabilitation phase. Kuthal village in Kavrepalan chowk district was 35 km from Kathmandu & visited two schools there. The schools were badly damaged in disaster and most classes were being run in temporary bamboo shelter.

The headmaster took us to village and showed us other damaged houses including his own damaged house & also the temporary makeshift arrangement where he is staying now. We had a discussion with disaster affected villagers & they all wanted financial support to rebuild their houses. Next day from Kathmandu i started early in day for Purana Gaon & Basari tamang villages in Kavrepalanchowk district which were around 50 km but the road was very bad just after 5 km from Dhulikheli & for a stretch of 20km odd there was no proper road.

I met the Purana Gaon school Head Master Mr. Narayan Bhakto Shrestha who seemed very proactive and has managed the school well. The school was badly impacted by the disaster as still four classes were being run in temporary shelters & with damaged sanitation pipeline.

    The school authorities also complained of depleting water source as a result of earthquake disaster.


The school so far received fund only to clear debris & for toilet construction but nothing for reconstruction of schools which as per new guidelines has to be earthquake proof & cost of which is around 50 lakhs & govt. is paying only 15 lakhs and rest schools have to ensure from collaboration with NGOs or some donors.


So it’s a long process to arrange funds & to start construction process. We saw how children were having classes in temporary shelters which is going to be a challenge for them as winter is approaching fast.

I also moved from Purana Gaon to Basari Tamang village which was quite a challenging track as there was no proper road & ride was quite muddy, rocky & bumpy & felt like a Himalayan racing track.


I had a discussion with  community members on the impacts of disaster, issues they are facing & their expectations & suggestions for recovery phase.

Most of the houses in village were damaged & I find most villagers living in temporary shelters.There also communities complained of depleting water source as a result of this disaster and which is also affecting their agriculture. Now they have to fetch water from 2km away & most community members wanted water schemes & agriculture support first in rehabilitation & recovery phase. Most of these communities were marginal & deprived and livelihood is mostly dependent on agriculture & labour.

Next day i visited Dhungenpauwa village in Nuwakot  district for which had no proper road.

The village had 44 households where most houses are either damaged or cracked due to earthquake and even villagers there  also complained of ground water depletion & want water tank, sanitation facilities. They also complained that the amount of Rupees 15000 compensation for shelter is too less as they used materials whatever they can use from their original houses but still temporary shelter cost them around 50000 rupees as cost of tin sheets, & wood & other material is high.

Communities demand that immediate relief compensation should be in sync with market conditions & this should be taken at policy level.

i also interacted with women in villages who wanted some sort of skill development, training to explore other livelihood options as the disaster has impacted on their livestock & agriculture due to water crisis & damaged irrigation network.


I also visited  nearby Haiculay village where  a total of 33 houses were damaged in disaster & they are also facing water crisis as water lines is damaged & still needed to be repaired. The School in village was also damaged & being run in temporary shelter.


Most of toilets are damaged & as a result open defecation is now quite common in village.

Govt. has certified disaster damaged buildings that are unsafe to stay by just hanging a tag Unsafe or Asurakshit but people are forced to use these unsafe buildings as they have no other option or other means of getting easy credit or loan.

 People want concrete solutions instead of cosmetic efforts from administration.

Most of the damage is to and due to mud mortar buildings so govt. has to ensure and enforce that new construction are cement based only. Training in earthquake resilient building techniques should be one of main priority for govt. & even NGOs can chip in & these efforts should start from village level. Construction of community centres that can be evacuation centres in case of future disaster should also be taken.

A lot of technical & financial support is needed in areas of health, nutrition, food security, water, sanitation, education and for shelters. We should look this crisis as a opportunity to plan and build a Safe Nepal for tomorrow & to learn from it to improve our forecasting & disaster preparedness systems.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Social Media Caravan

PACS DFIDs Social media caravan initiative was to highlight struggles and success of communities fighting discrimination and gain access to entitlements.The Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme is a seven-state initiative focused on addressing discrimination and exclusion to bridge the gap that exists between the poorest from the socially excluded communities and rest of the population.
We as photographers tried  to capture the community voices & their struggles to end discrimination and also debated in social media  the issue of  inclusion for addressing poverty and inequality in India.

      A man showing his Patta or land certificate from Jamunaliya village in Badbil Panchayat of Mayurbhanj District,Odisha

The Forest Right Committees(FRCs) addresses the needs & priorties of Tribals and other forest-dwelling communities who have strong connection & interdependence with forest resources.Earlier People with unrecorded rights were treated as intruders, encroachers, and an enemy of the forest and wildlife but now FRCs are recognising their rights on forest land.

          Ms Babita Nayak from Jamunaliya village in Badbil Panchayat in Mayurbhanj District, Odisha with  her patta or land certificate

The recognition of Community Forest Rights was moving at a snail-pace but CBO strengthening has added some pace into it. Gramsabha are getting proactive in meeting & processing the cases of forest rights.

   People gathering for Gramsabha Meeting in Hessa Suruniya village of block Tonto in West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand

CSO interventions has strengthened Gramsabha & forest committees which are now working efficiently thus empowering the people and ensuring effective implementation of rural development works.

                                      Women Participation in the Gramsabha meeting

I came across considerable potential of MGNREGA when i visited Baru Runju village on Rojgar Divas during Kaam Mango Abhiyaan and how communities are embracing it & how it is enhancing the livelihood security of the working poor in tribal Jharkhand.

    MGNREGA Registration & work demand process & women participating in MGNREGA process

                                                 Women with their MGNREGA Job cards

                                           A women displaying her MGNREGA job card

                                                           MGNREGA meeting hopes

So MGNREGA is empowering the deprived, excluded, neglected section of society with dignity and respect beside improving rural infrastructure and agricultural productivity.

                                       Children taking food(Khichdi) at an anganwadi centre

 I have to say i am surprised that  in tribal areas of Jharkhand like this AWWs are working so efficiently and the credit for that goes to AWW workers who play their roles of teachers, doctors, and mothers so beautifully.

                              Mothers & children at AWW centre waiting for Immunization 

Anganwadis (AWWs) advocates for the importance of inculcating women health, nutrition, immunization, cleanliness and on high standards of hygiene issues. Presently the focus is on to strengthen counselling, to cut delays in registration of pregnant women & also awareness on family planning aspect which is quite weak.

The literacy rate in West Singhbhum district is around 60% according to 2011 census.In the last few years there is an improvement in the number & enrolment ratio of students in the middle schools in Jharkhand. Female literacy status was also good with boys to girls ratio 54:71 in school.The only concern raised by school administration was of shortage of teachers in the school which is the issue in other schools also.

                         Middle School Hessa Suruniya in West Singhbhum district  of Jharkhand

Poor socio economic conditions which are a major constrain to education access has been addressed by interventions of CSO, Gramsabha & also livelihood options like MGNREGA.

                                 Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna or RSBY Card Holder

RSBY success lies in effective awareness campaigns, high enrolment rates & better governance of the scheme through timely access to hospital care. RSBY is trying to improve the welfare of the poor and help fulfil the vision of an inclusive development path in the tribal parts of Jharkhand & Odisha that i visited.

 The impact of RSBY was measured with respect to high enrolment rates, effect on access to hospital care, and financial protection offered to BPL families. RSBY scheme is constantly evolving in Jharkhand & Odisha with the interventions done by PACS & CSO to adjust the scheme based on the needs of the target group and requirements at the ground level.