DEWATS Evaluation Trip to Nagpur

I had a fairly informative and productive trip to Nagpur on 15th & 16th May along with various Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation officials. We joined a local Center for DEWATS Dissemination (CDD) team to visit various DEWATS (Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems) sites for possible inclusion in the Project Sammaan facilities.

BMC was represented by Ms Sumita Behera (Land Recovery Officer), Mr. Ratindra Narayan Mallick (Executive Engineer) and Mr. Surath Kumar Sahoo (Junior Engineer). Satchit (Regional co-ordinator) and Sekhar (Sr. Engineer) accompanied us from CDD.


A Designer’s Perspective on Sammaan

I am part of the design team and coordinate a lot of Quicksand’s input with the architecture team at Anagram Architects (AA). This includes feedback on designs, coordination of various submissions to the BMC and CMC, and managing updates to the same. I also assist in overall project management, while coordinating inputs to J-PAL on several aspects of software.

A typical day for me consists of several phone calls with Siva and AA and other partners to facilitate various aspects of the project. It also involves writing a few emails about design perspectives to share with partners, as well as writing for, and reviewing, various communication deliverables on the project.


The Future of Sanitation in India

With an aspiring and young population, there is a growing demand from the citizens and government officials alike to provide quality basic services like sanitation. India is rapidly urbanizing and this is putting a huge strain on the existing sanitation facilities, especially in urban slums.

The future of sanitation in India involves making a paradigm shift in thinking and leapfrogging in creating sanitation infrastructure like toilets and supporting sewerage systems. This requires driving initiatives like Project Sammaan and scaling them up rapidly to benefit millions of Indians who don’t have access to toilets.


Q&A: Selva Swetha

Briefly explain your role within the Project Sammaan team. (e.g., What do you do? What is a typical day like for you?)

I am a Research Associate (RA) with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). J-PAL constitutes the research arm within Project Sammaan, where we’re testing and scientifically evaluating the project and its various experiments using a randomised-controlled-trial methodology.

Along with my co-RA Anustubh, I am based out of Bhubaneswar, where we’re responsible for coordinating the research study on the ground. Currently, we are in the midst of conducting a detailed census across more than a hundred study slums in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, collecting basic information on demographics and sanitation practices. This would also serve as a sampling frame for the baseline activities.



Operations & Maintenance (O&M) is one of the four pillars of innovation, primarily due to the fact that shortcomings and failures within this largely determines the success of the facilities.

Given the importance of this workstream, a great deal of time and effort has gone into understanding the current models that are employed, while exploring practical changes that can be made to operating and maintaining these facilities while improving the quality of life of the caretakers themselves, both through their perceived value and position within the communities they serve and by addressing unfair business practices that put an undue financial strain on them.


Challenges of a Multi-Stakeholder Engagement

For a large infrastructure project of this nature, multiple stakeholders are a given. Within this dynamic there is an overall project objective, but also individual organizational goals that need to be taken into consideration and addressed. At times, these individual mandates can conflict with the project’s overall goals with one team’s workstream impacted by the needs of another’s.

An example of this can be found in the innovation and design mandates. Imperative for some of the partners, these directives require considerable and conscientious ideation. This alone can be seen by stakeholders with limited understanding of the complexities and intricacies of design innovation as a delay.



Sewage management systems are a necessary part of the sanitation puzzle and potentially a big failure point from a public health perspective. From a government perspective, scale of solution is an imperative. Existing statutes and cost constraints make it extremely difficult to experiment with new, untested technologies.

As such, waste management is a key component to Project Sammaan as shortcomings in this have frequently been the cause of failures in other facilities and improper storage and disposal of waste could lead to worsening present conditions and not improving them.


Prototyping at Scale

Project Sammaan’s long-term goal is to create a replicable, successful sanitation model that can be adapted by cities throughout South Asia and beyond.

In order to quantify the impact of this initiative, rigorous evaluation needs to occur. However, the methodology of this assessment requires a considerable sample size, meaning that the interventions, irrespective of their success rates, will be rolled out on a massive scale. It’s not merely one or two facilities, but well over 100 in dozens of communities; a considerable footprint to be certain.


Architecture & Design

Potty Project provided a great deal of detail regarding issues around design that, if improved, could facilitate greater adoption rates of facilities by the communities they serve, and, consequently, reduce instances of open-defecation in these areas.

There will be two broad facility types:

  1. Base Layer: facilities that will include only toilet stalls, menstrual waste incinerators, and handwashing stations.

  2. Enhanced Layer: In addition to the base layer features, these facilities will also have bathing stalls, clothes-washing stations, and retail spaces.



Project Sammaan is a unique innovation initiative due to the diversity of the organizations working on it: design firms, government bodies, empirical researchers, architectural firms, waste management experts, community engagement specialists, and an interface management team.

This amalgamation of seemingly disparate entities provides a robust and exhaustive approach that ensures community members’ needs are designed for, the facilities are both functional and valued, and the effectiveness of the engagement is thoroughly evaluated.