L&T and Arpan Seva Sansthan Water Sanitation Project revives community-led Action in Bhim, Rajasthan

By auther pic. Faiza Ruksar Arif

June 18, 2020

L&T and Arpan Seva Sansthan Water Sanitation Project revives community-led Action in Bhim, Rajasthan

Heroes of Cleanliness felicitated

The desert region of Rajasthan continues to be a daunting challenge to development experts, owing to its harsh terrain, coarse land, and scanty rainfall. The communities of Rajasthan live in a paradoxical reality where they rely on rain-fed farm activities but are unable to avail water resources to sustain these traditional agricultural practices. Bhim Block in Rajasthan is the prime example of this oddity, where the groundwater level is declining at an alarming rate resulting in a lack of groundwater resources for drinking and irrigation purposes. This has further severely hindered agricultural production while causing the spread of water-borne diseases among the community. In light of this water crisis, the 'Community-Based Integrated Development Project (CBIDP)' was introduced to tackle the water and sanitation issues of the region and promote sustainability. The project is the brainchild of Larsen & Toubro and its implementing partner Arpan Seva Sansthan, a non-profit that serves the livelihood and sustainability of the community.


Larsen & Toubro has been a pioneer across Technology, Engineering, Construction, and Manufacturing, and maintains a leadership in all its major lines of business. With a commitment to inclusive growth, the company's CSR wing works with great fervor towards, 'Building India's Social Infrastructure' through accelerated development. Arpan Seva Sansthan adopts a community based participatory approach and has rich experience working on Watershed and water resources development, livelihood enhancement, improved agriculture & horticulture interventions and drinking water and sanitation projects.


Started in March 2015, the project is the first of its many replications in the country. The project aims at the integrated development of Natural Resources (Water, Land, Forest, Livestock, and Community) of the targeted area and also to implement community-led total sanitation (CLTS). A budget of INR 25.88 Cr. has been allocated for the whole CBIDP project with INR 9.23 Cr. being utilized in 2018-2019. The primary beneficiaries of the project are 2965 households comprising of a population of 9135 members that reside across 6 revenue villages of 2-gram panchayats.


The organization has adopted an innovative program strategy of rigorous community triggering and engagement in the sanitation program wherein a plethora of activities was conducted simultaneously in each of the 33 hamlets. Initially, a rigorous assessment of the sanitation conditions is done by sanitation experts and a community-centric perspective is adopted. This is followed up by informative awareness building sessions on the hazards of open defecation and unhygienic conditions. Open defecation areas are identified by the community and a Transit Walk is conducted in these areas. A committee called the 'Nigrani Samiti' is formulated by social mobilization experts to help chart out a local development action plan and roles and responsibilities are allocated to help effective implementation. One of the most unique elements of the CBIDP that stands out, is how it has transformed cultural forms of artistic expression into spaces for water and sanitation-based discussions to raise awareness. The cultural night is organized where the importance of sanitation was explained to the community by singing bhajans and songs, movie screenings, Nukkad-Natak, and Puppet shows were organized across villages to promote hygienic practices. Slogan writing and wall paintings were also done in all villages to stop open defecation. The Sanitation program also extended to schools where school rallies, painting competitions, village mapping with Rangoli, awareness seminars were conducted to promote sanitation and hygienic practices.


Arpan Seva Sansthan also conducts individual sanitation assessments for households, visiting and mapping potential sites for toilet cum bathroom construction, the contribution of the household, etc. Common meetings are then held with the community to share knowledge on how to construct the toilet cum bathroom, materials, costs and other semantics of enhancing the sanitation infrastructure in the community. Additionally, skilled civil engineers conducted 11 - seven days of extensive mason training to aid toilet construction. Toilets were constructed in 1353 lower-income households who could not afford them while remaining toilets were constructed by the community under the guidance of the organization.


Given the community participation model being implemented, Arpan Seva Sansthan saw fit to form 20 Village Development Committees (VDCs) in the 6 revenue villages to create a common platform for deliberations and problem-solving. Any problem experienced on the field during implementation was discussed with the community and solved through their involvement. The Community also monitors the quality of the construction works, providing regular feedback in the fortnightly meetings held. The community also takes a decision on the member contributions towards the project, usually made through labor or finances.


In its nascent stages' awareness programs were prioritized and conducted for a year and a half to ensure that the sanitation program is more 'pull' than 'push' – with the community taking initiative and leading change. When the community was receptive and demanded facilities actual construction and training began. Arpan Seva Sansthan set up stringent monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure consistent work in water and sanitation practices in the project area. An action plan is formulated with tangible physical and financial targets of activities and staff meetings are held regularly for follow-ups and updates on-field issues. Community-based monitoring is also done with the Nigrani Samiti evaluating construction works and coordinating with (PRI) Panchayat members for quality control. A project manager is at the helm of impact assessment and facilitates the smooth running of daily activities and the systems put in place.


This community participatory approach has proved successful leading to behavioral and lifestyle changes being documented across 2965 households and their sanitation practices. The intervention led to a reduction in open defecation practices and improved hygiene practices. Compost was used in agriculture and sustainable twin pits were set up alongside toilet maintenance. Over time, improvement in the health of children and women was also reported by ASHA workers with a reduction in the spread of water-borne diseases. Women have further reported improved safety with the construction of toils in their houses, where they are no longer forced to walk to desolate areas. The community members have also been trained for Soil Liquid Waste Management and are in coordination with SBM (G) for raising funds per gram panchayat for the implementation of SLWM.


Arpan's work on Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in the Bhim Block of Rajsamand district has been identified as a sustainable model for replication garnering visibility and appreciation at the national level. Dr. Subh Karan Singh, President, and Mr. Rajesh Jain, Treasurer have also participated in a show called "Safar Manzilo ka" organized by Doordarshan that brings light to the journey of the unsung #heroes of cleanliness. The core strength of Apran's endeavor has been a sanitation drive for the community led by the community. By offering local households a stake in the decision-making process and aiding education and upskilling of the local community, Arpan has paved way for sustained community action and intergenerational change in practices and lifestyle in watershed management, sanitation, and hygiene.


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Faiza Ruksar Arif is a content specialist and researcher based in Bangalore who has worked extensively on curating curriculum and educational programs for adolescents in Telangana. With a Master’s degree in Gender Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Faiza is on a mission to improve social realities by equipping women and other marginalized sections, with improved access to health, education and livelihood opportunities. She also dabbles in artwork and is passionate about issues pertaining to mental health and minority politics.


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