The first city in India where open defecation prevented in all slums
Gramalaya’s work is focused on implementation and filling critical knowledge gaps in the sector, up scaling community based pro poor approaches through our program and advocacy work. The 2001 census of India put urban sanitation coverage at 61 percent of the population having access to individual or public toilets. Low coverage of urban sanitation is due to the inability of planned urban development to provide for sanitation access to the urban poor. Gramalaya started its urban intervention in the 186 slums of Tiruchirappalli City Corporation as the operational area aiming at declaring open defecation free zone. The involvement of community based organizations in the project coupled with City Corporation support in providing Integrated Sanitatary complexes (ISPs), offering vacant sites for constructing community toilets with WaterAid, UK funding enabled the project a successfully demonstrated model.
Gramalaya played an active role in declaring India’s first slum Kalmandhai as open defecation free (ODF) slum in Tiruchirappalli City Corporation in theyear 2002 followed by 168 slums as ODF announced with the support of Trichy City Corporation and donor agencies. This has resulted in conversion of dry earth latrines into modern flush out community toilets and eradication of manual scavenging in the city. In Tiruchirappalli city Corporation, 126 slum Communities are maintaining sanitary complexes under pay and use system with the support city Corporation. The Corporation handed over the toilets to women self help groups after new construction or renovation of the toilet. The Corporation gave the permission letter to the groups for running the community managed toilet under pay and use system. The Gramalaya experience proved that adequate involvement of community and training in maintenance of public toilets and earning from user charge is a revenue model for the slum communities with sustainable approach. It also generates tremendous confidence among women to partake in slum welfare and day-to-day decision making.
The review of Community managed toilets and bathing complexes in Tiruchirapalli, six years after the work began, has shown that achieving clean and healthy slums does not require huge financial investment. However, what it does require is a city authority sensitive to the problems faced by slum communities and supportive of community action, dedication of communities and their support NGOs. It has been proved that communities can manage their own toilet units and when they do this, the toilet are much cleaner than when managed by municipal authorities. There have been cases where the entire community can be declared open defecation free. Further, it has shown that managing toilets leads to empowerment of women with many positive impacts in terms of personal and community development. This experience shows that after reluctance, committees do pay for using toilets and bathing and washing facilities and these services can be provided at affordable costs, even for the poorest.
Toilets are only a part of the sanitation solution. Sewage, wastewater and solid waste management must also be tackled by city authorities and this is the area where they must play a lead role. Tiruchirapalli shows that community managed toilets and bathing complexes provide a model that can work at city-level when supported by city authorities where declaration of 168 slums as open defecation free made possible.