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Champions, capacity and continuity: Reflections from the urban CLTS workshop in Nanded

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The workshop on urban CLTS in Nanded, Maharashtra, was an occasion with much to learn. It was the first time when urban CLTS experiences had been brought together – from Mathare in Nairobi, Kalyani in West Bengal, and Nanded itself, with its population of a little over half a million. The only other major urban experience of CLTS I know of is Rosso in Mauritania, though I hope my saying this will provoke others into giving other examples, so that soon we will have a wider range of experiences to learn from.

It was great to learn about Kalyani from Dr Shantanu Jha, the ex-mayor and Dr Shibani Goswami from the West Bengal State Urban Development Agency, and about Mathare from Rose Nyawira of Community Cleaning Services, Susan Kimani, Community Development Officer with the Nairobi City Council, and Jamie Lundine who has been pioneering participatory digital mapping. It was clear that the conditions and experiences of Kalyani, Mathare and Nanded are in sharp contrast. The dimension that hit me most between the eyes was space. Kalyani I have not visited, but have been told that it is not too cramped. In Nanded many dwellings have spaces between or near them and individual household toilets are feasible. In Mathare conditions are much more difficult simply for extreme lack of space and a system of shared toilets is inescapable.

In Nanded itself there had been rapid events. Nipun Vinayak, already a champion of CLTS when he was Collector of Jalna District, was for the past year the Municipal Commissioner of the Nanded Wanghala City Municipal Council (NWCMC). He quickly recruited some of the best CLTS trainers in India, from Knowledge Links and Feedback Foundation, to come and pioneer urban CLTS. Between them they trained and deployed teams to trigger and follow up in slums and non-slums. The initial triggering focus was rubbish and blocked drains, and the resulting disgust and illhealth, then moving on to open defecation which has been rampant. Women took the lead. The NWCMC improved its services, especially regular daily garbage collection. Children can now play cricket on vacant plots previously piled with rubbish and used for OD. In some areas there really has been a big clean up, an impressive achievement in less than a year.

What sticks in my memory?

  • The women – well over a hundred of them – who came to the workshop and displayed drawings and charts in a fair, showing before and after conditions, and their enthusiasm, energy and commitment
  • The concept of women as commandos who would go out from their communities and trigger others and follow with them. When I asked those who were commandos to stand up, most of the women present did so
  • The chalk boards displayed in public places with ticks to show whether the daily garbage collection had taken place, and whether the drains had been cleaned, and in some cases giving the telephone numbers to call in case of default
  • The extent to which organic material was being separated by groups to make compost which could then be sold, and the separation of 8 sorts of plastic for recycling
  • The difficulty experienced in stopping children’s OD, including in non-slum areas, because it was regarded as normal and harmless
  • The BSUP (Basic Services for the Urban Poor) houses being built and provided with an inside toilet to be connected to the sewer, but questions of proximity to the kitchen, and OD in the meantime before the connection is made
  • The amount of OD I encountered on morning jogs from the hotel, going on in broad daylight, and the flourishing community of foraging pigs
  • The keenness of the Council’s engineers to show the women (and it was a long, hot morning) the good work they do in purifying water and building sewage works
  • A new sanction which I love – the reported practice of children demanding a box of chocolates from those they found doing OD. I wonder if it really happened and worked!

There are big questions now of sustainability and spread. Nipun’s posting to the Cabinet Office in Delhi was announced only the day before the workshop! and how significant this was came out when the MLA rejected the written petitions for him to intervene to stop the posting, because when he refused to do so, women started walking out of the hall. Will those wards that have cleaned up keep it up? Will the NWCMC maintain the services to them? Will the commandos spread the movement to other wards – only part of the city has been covered? Or even spread it to other cities? Will elected political leaders see and find votes in the movement and in ensuring the provision of better services? And what will happen when in a matter of days Knowledge Links and Feedback Foundation come to the end of their contracts and have to leave? Will everything continue, flourish and spread, or will it relapse? We need someone to keep a diary, and help us all to learn from what happens now.

Conditions for success
The Nanded experience is encouraging and inspiring. But it was possible only because of two special conditions.

The first was Nipun Vinayak. He had already shown himself to be an outstanding pioneer of CLTS when he was Collector in Jalna District. He has energy, drive, ability and the essential qualities of courageous innovation and good leadership. In addition, and critically, he understands CLTS and decided to give it priority.

The second was bringing together a good deal of the CLTS training, triggering and innovation capacity of India in one place. As far as I know, Knowledge Links and the Feedback Foundation have between them most of the known and available CLTS training capacity in India. Each sent several staff to work in Nanded for months.

Champions, capacity and continuity
These two conditions raise acute issues which affect other countries besides India. The first is continuity of champions, particularly administrators. A year is terribly short. Even two years. Those who expect to be posted soon have to do something quickly. This would not matter so much if their successors took over and nurtured what they had started. But all too often this does not occur, and initiatives wilt and die. Let us hope that Nanded will be an exception.

The second is more serious and immediate. In relation to need, there is an extreme scarcity of good CLTS training capacity in India. Because of the sheer scale of India, this is more acute than in most if not all other countries. We have seen in Nanded what can be achieved when some of this capacity is concentrated in one place. But in the longer term, how should it be used? How should this training capacity be deployed? Is there a case for a national scale programme to bring organisations with these capabilities together for concerted training and mentoring of new trainers, to multiply this vitally scarce national resource? At this time when a new national sanitation programme is being formulated, this looks a critically important question to ask and answer.

Robert Chambers, Research Associat, IDS, UK

Date: 26 March 2012


Submitted by samuel Musyoki (not verified) on

Robert these are good nuggets you share from the Nanded UCLTS event. I would have loved to here more how your contrast the India and Kenya (Mathare) experience. You seem to have dwelt more on the 2 India examples but with very little contrasting with what might have been shared from Mathare.

Submitted by Jane Bevan (not verified) on
Dear Robert,
provoked, as ever, I write to tell you we have some more good experiences with urban CLTS now in Africa, including Zambia and Eritrea, and watch this space for Nigeria. The key appears to lie with the close involvement of local officials in terms both of development support and ‘enforcement’. These lessons will be documented soon.

Jane Bevan, WASH Specialist, UNICEF West & Central Africa region.