Community managed sanitation in Kerala Tools to promote governance and improve health A Report by the World Bank Institute

India Water Portal
Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 10:30

It also deals with the efforts made by the Government of India to revolutionise sanitation services in the state of Kerala, with the aim of improving public health. Earlier experience had shown that significant governance problems had hindered water and sanitation reforms in local and national programmes in the state.

Challenges to reform included a lack of accountability and transparency, corruption, which made sanitation and hygiene problems more difficult to solve and accelerated the spread of infectious diseases throughout densely populated Kerala. It was also found that corruption affected all the sections of the population, particularly the poor and the marginalised.

Kerala’s sanitation project and measures against corruption were developed over the five year period from 1990 to 1995. The project deployed social accountability tools and implemented good practices in sanitation to provide poor households with permanent, high-quality latrines in an environment characterised by effective governance and included:

  • Increasing community participation in water and sanitation management
  • Financial accountability
  • Social accountability contracts
  • Increased community engagement
  • Multiple Tenders Required to Avoid Cartels
  • Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Ensuring Quality and Quantity of Construction Materials
  • Latrine Construction Contingent on Payment in Full
  • Independent Audits and Spot Checks
  • Transparent Processes to Choose Households Eligible for Subsidized Latrines
  • Effective Complaint Mechanisms
  • Gender equity

Social Accountability Tools and Good Practices Checklist included:

  • Community mobilisation
  • Socioeconomic mapping
  • Public awareness of households eligible for latrine subsidies
  • Local government should contribute funds
  • Local tendering controls
  • Public awareness of costing estimates and construction time
  • Construction checklists
  • Contributions prior to construction
  • Latrine education prior to construction
  • Unannounced audits and spot checks

The Kerala Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project broke new ground by institutionalising the integration of local communities with Panchayats (local government institutions). By placing communities in charge of their own sanitation, the project supported the sustained delivery of adequate sanitation and water services in rural areas of Kerala’s four districts.

This project was unique in that it focused on sanitation (particularly household latrines) instead of water, and on the actions of local government and civic society organisations instead of public sector institutions, such as utilities and boards. The project improved on other sanitation programs by addressing critical sanitation needs and encouraging further cooperation  between community members and local government.

The project also served to mediate competing interests, enforced obligations, and prevented capture of resources by elites and unscrupulous vendors and community members and institutionalised several social accountability tools. It also established mechanisms to enhance gender equity and prevent corruption through public-private partnerships between local government, civil society organisations, the private sector, and user communities.

The project empowered traditionally under served communities, particularly women. Local vendors and other service-providers were rewarded for transparent practices and honest competition. At the local-government and Panchayat level, emphasis was thus placed on transparency, accountability, and community-driven reforms for local development and public health.

The project benefited India at four levels: the village level; the regional level, particularly for vendors and service providers; the local government level; and the national government level. At the village level, increased access to sanitation greatly improved community health and hygiene. The project thus demonstrated that transparent processes and community-driven efforts can be successfully implemented and can serve as a model for sustainable replication in other communities.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from below: