Put the Poo in the New Loos

Project Samman, over the past 3 years, has been putting in immeasurable effort towards a single, immense goal: building great new community toilets. At some point in the not-too-distant future, 57 brand new, gleaming toilet blocks will come into existence, and it will be a major accomplishment for the project.

But then what?

What happens next? Just because the new toilets exist, will people use them?

This is not as easy of a question to consider as it might seem at first glance. We might think, “Why (more…)

Pre-Construction Activities

There are a series of interrelated activities that must occur prior to the commencement of construction on the Sammaan facilities in order to ensure the project is as effective as possible. The challenge is that these activities cannot begin until after the contractors have been selected and a clearly defined construction timeline created as they need to be completed as close to the commencement of building the facilities as can be afforded.

Naturally, the extensive delays in the tendering process and, ultimately, in finding suitable contractors for facility construction has put the timelines for the pre-construction activities in a (more…)

Developing Sammaan’s Toolkit

While there has been a considerable amount of activity in the past few months on the tendering front for the toilet facilities in Bhubaneswar & Cuttack, we have also simultaneously started working on the toolkit. The toolkit is an essential part of Project Sammaan, aiming to put together guidelines for effective sanitation interventions in low-income urban contexts, based on our own experiences and learnings from Project Sammaan.

Through the detailed design exercises and fine-tuning our understanding of what works and what doesn’t work, an essential outcome of the project will be the toolkit, that will include a set of “blueprints” for future infrastructure projects that will be (more…)

O&M Review

We recently conducted a review of various Operations and Maintenance (O&M) models, which we submitted to the government. The objective was to outline existing O&M models for communal sanitation facilities in India and highlight how the strengths and weaknesses of these models are informing Project Sammaan’s approach.

We studied cases on the Pune Model of NGO maintenance and Corporation-funded, NGO-managed construction, the case of management and part-funded construction by a community-based organization in the Kanpur slums, the Trichi model where the self-help groups trained by NGOs took over the maintenance of the Corporation’s existing toilets, and the case of Puri where community members took on the management of a toilet block constructed by an NGO.


Validating Sammaan

If we are to identify effective, replicable solutions that address the design, management and operational challenges of communal sanitation facilities, it is imperative that we rigorously test out the impact of the various interventions and understand the causal mechanisms along the way. Thus, research is a crucial aspect of Project Sammaan, where a mix of software and hardware interventions will be evaluated using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) methodology.

There are two hardware interventions that will be studied: the provision of a basic package of design, infrastructure, and operational improvements, as well as additional infrastructure above the basic package, such as spaces for bathing and washing clothes. We will study if this provision of complementary services is cost-effective and whether this drives adoption. In terms of software at the facility-level, we will study the appropriate management system to ensure sustained maintenance. Facilities will be assigned to either community management or private contractor management, to study the effect of toilet management systems on usage rates.


Census Completion!

The main field milestone in August has been the completion of the census data collection. As I write this update, the team is gearing up for what will be their last census field session. We follow a rule of a site-wide first-pass followed by two revisits for each unfinished household. Today the field team is preparing for a second revisit at the last remaining site.

With the completion of this last batch of 10 sites in Bhubaneswar, what has been nearly a 11-month long exercise draws to a close. In this time, we have, in total, surveyed 32 sites in Cuttack, and about a 100 sites in Bhubaneswar, covering over 20,000 households in Bhubaneswar and 7,000 households in Cuttack. The overall completion rates in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack stand at around 87% and 90%, respectively.


Notes from the Field

Field activities in the month of July were focused towards completing the census data collection in the remaining 10 community toilet locations in Bhubaneswar. J-PAL has finished first round of data collection is 5 sites with a completion rate of more than 80%, and will revisit these sites to improve the completion rate and start data collection in the remaining sites.

The Principal Investigator on the Urban Sanitation Project, Prof. Mushfiq Mobarak, Associate Professor at the Yale School of Management, visited the project in July. He presented the Software and Research aspects of the Urban Sanitation project to the Additional Chief Secretary, Mr Srinivas. The presentation led to a constructive dialogue on the practical challenges to keep in mind while implementing the research methodology.


Quick Progress Report from J-PAL

During the month of June, J-PAL’s field work in Bhubaneswar focussed on completing the on-going census survey, and identifying additional communities in Bhubaneswar for proposed community sanitation facilities. So far, J-PAL has collected data in close to 80 community locations.


Community Census

As part of Project Sammaan, J-PAL is studying how improved community sanitation models impact open defecation rates in urban slums in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. J-PAL is currently conducting large scale surveys in the communities Project Sammaan works in.

As a first step, J-PAL defines the communities using maps. Based on these maps the J-PAL’s survey team conducts a door to door census survey. This census survey provides the basis for a more in-depth baseline study.


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.