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Uttarakhand Bio-toilet initiative

At a time when the entire country is raging over the oh-so-popular debate of toilets over temples, Outlook India (an English weekly news magazine), declared sanitation as India’s No. 2 problem (in more ways than one) (You can refer to the article here). 64% of Indians still do it in the open which is a global record in itself. In the background of such a situation, the CSR initiative of a major Indian logistics company in partnership with Samhita is one step towards solving one of the oldest and large-scale problems of India.

To address this problem in a sustained manner, the company adopted sanitation as one of the top causes as part of its CSR policy. In pursuance of its CSR policy, it gave a go ahead to set-up environment friendly bio-toilets in and around its areas of operations to eliminate open defecation practice. These bio-toilets differ from the conventional toilets as all of the human waste is processed and converted into harmless water thus promoting environmental sustainability.

Just as it was approving the budget to go ahead with the installation of bio toilets at their Mumbai Port facilities, unfortunately, in Uttarakhand, thousands of people were killed/displaced due to devastating floods and landslides in the region. Being a socially responsible business that it is, the company decided to prioritize helping flood victims and encouraged employees to come forward and commit one day’s salary, which the company will match.

The company decided to undertake a more structured and holistic approach in order to ensure that the collected money is brought to an effective use and delivers the much-needed impact in the affected communities. So, in partnership with Samhita, a needs assessment was conducted in the flood affected villages to identify the imminent problems. It was identified that the villagers in the flood affected regions were left with very little sanitation facility due to floods; most of them going out in open spaces to defecate. Thus, there loomed a big danger of an epidemic breakout in the region. Community being an integral part of their operations, the company wanted to go beyond donations and overtake the execution of the relief project till the final stage until the affected people are not forced anymore to indulge in open defecation practice.

A local NGO Yusuf Meherally Centre (YMC) was identified for looking after the installation and maintenance of these toilets in the long run. The work began with Samhita and YMC teams getting together and conducting days of groundwork which included surveys and some social engineering to ensure only the needy and those who are severely affected by the disaster are selected as beneficiaries for toilets. Moreover, to make best use of capacity of bio-toilets, the beneficiaries were grouped together to use common toilets. This also ensured a sense of responsibility amongst the people to first build the toilets, and then use and maintain them collectively.

Impact

–  An amount equal to Rs. 7,22,760 was raised through the matching scheme with the employees

–  18 toilets would be built, spread out over six flood affected villages namely Dugadda, Shirwa, Durgapul, Bhumia ki Chaloti, Thatyur and Thapla. 15 were built for households and 3 were built for schools

–  More than 200 villagers and 325 children have been benefitted by getting access to toilets

–  Construction of toilets have provided a livelihood opportunity to around 45 villagers who worked as daily labourers

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Role of Samhita

–  Identified sanitation as the major problem in alignment with the mandate of the corporate from a ground-level needs assessment in the villages of Uttarakhand

–  Recognized the right kind of social enterprise with its area of operation in and around Uttarakhand and as sanitation as the focus area. After a series of personal calls, market research and due diligence process, StoneIndia was identified as the partner social enterprise.

–  Carried out a door-to-door research and identified potential locations for setting up of bio-toilets where sanitation facilities were largely deficient. Feasibility studies and access issues were also carried out at this stage.

–  Helped in the setting up of bio toilets and supervised the working and functioning of bio-toilets. The NGO Yusuf Meherally Centre was identified and handed over the responsibility of installation and maintenance of these toilets in the long-run

–  Provided villages with a reporting and impact assessment framework to record the progress and sustainability of the project.

The leading logistics company has assured their commitment towards community development work in the long run and promised to stay closely associated with the local people to ensure sustainability of these efforts. The seriousness and commitment shown by the higher management ensured the project execution in a very small duration and brought a huge difference to the life of flood affected communities.