Integrated and context-specific sanitation solutions needed as India gears up to build millions of toilets

Arghyam, a grant making foundation working in water and sanitation in India, hosted a workshop on 27th January 2015 at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore to understand the interface between groundwater and sanitation in India. After a decade of work across the country, Arghyam has become increasingly aware that its vision of safe, sustainable water for all cannot be achieved in isolation. In certain hydrogeological conditions, sanitation provisions may conflict with water supply. In typical rural toilets, the wastewater goes into an adjoining pit and wastewater leaching out of the pit can percolate into the groundwater supply. An integrated approach is required to avoid new pollution hazards, especially when 85% of drinking water supplies in the country rely upon groundwater (Census 2011).

The Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission aims to construct approximately 125 million toilets across rural and urban India over the next 5 years. At this stage, it is very critical to get the design of toilets and wastewater systems right. India is marked by a large diversity of hydrogeological and agro-climatic contexts, which demand context-specific designs. If sanitation planning is done in isolation without considerations of groundwater resources, we may irreversibly damage the quality of groundwater. “It is very important to understand the groundwater sanitation nexus, particularly in the context of denser living spaces due to rapid urbanisation,” said Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Arghyam.

The research programme aims to answer some of these questions, and produce implementable solutions that can influence policy and practice. There was general consensus on the relevance of the research programme and several short term research projects were proposed at the gathering, with interest in collaboration being expressed by several organisations.

Download the attached concept note for more details on the Groundwater-Sanitation Connect programme at Arghyam.

For more details, please contact:
Neelima Thota
Director, Urban Programme
Office: 080 4169 8941 extension 32

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