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More or less: A rapid review of ‘water for toilets’ in rural India

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Toilet construction is critical to ending open defecation, however most toilets built under Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin (SBM-G) (clean India mission - rural) are water intensive. In the absence of piped water supply, rural households often rely on alternative sources of water or turn to open defecation (OD) or partial use. In such a scenario, water usage for cooking, drinking and washing takes precedence and using water for toilets becomes the last priority.

This Rapid Topic Review examines both technical and behavioural aspects surrounding water collection, management and consumption related to toilet use in rural areas. Information for this study comes from a literature review and field visits to eight villages across Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana involving discussions with men and women of different ages, as well as boys and girls. The villages were selected based on the climate conditions and socio-religious composition of the communities. In all three states, water scarcity is experienced at different times of the year.

The report finds that key deterrents in sustained use of toilets include: absence of water in latrines, purity and sanitation rituals, and the extra work associated with latrine use particularly by women who shoulder the responsibility of fetching water for drinking and other purposes.

The authors highlights the need for more adaptive approaches to programming – especially around information, education and communication (IEC) efforts – as contexts vary geographically and culturally meaning that programming efforts need to be tailored to meet varying local needs and dynamics.

Date: 21 November 2019