A technical advisory group led by the CWIS Scaling Hub under AIT-GWSC, embarked on its official trip to the coal-mining capital of India, Dhanbad, and a newly established district of Ramgarh in Jharkhand in April 2023. This visit was planned as a part of the TA support to the Government of Jharkhand by AIT-GWSC which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The mission was to provide technical advisory (TA) support, as requested by the Government of Jharkhand and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to mainstream the CWIS principle by integrating non-sewered sanitation (NSS) to complement to their ongoing sewer project. The TA not only delves on the technical aspects but also explores community engagement in sanitation, particularly tackling the empowerment of self-help groups (SHGs) and institutional governance structure pertaining to sanitation. This integration aims to ensure 100% access to equitable, safe and sustainable sanitation for all the city residents.
Dhanbad and Ramgarh are two cities situated within the Damodar River Basin. The Damodar River is infamous as one of the most polluted rivers in India, and the wastewater from both towns naturally flows directly into it. Dhanbad is renowned as the ‘Coal Capital of India,’ with over half of its population residing near coal mining areas. Similarly, Ramgarh also possesses a substantial number of coal mining sites in its periphery. However, due to its status as a cantonment town, Ramgarh operates under a different administrative body compared to Dhanbad.
The objective of this visit was to establish a strong rapport with the local government authorities and their counterparts, validate some of the initial findings of NSS pockets through spatial analysis and to meet with the relevant stakeholders to understand their sanitation situation and needs.
During the visit, the team had meetings with the Commissioner in Dhanbad, ULB officials in both Dhanbad and Ramgarh, Ramgarh Cantonment Board Officers, members from Dhanbad Chamber of Commerce, women participants from SHGs, and private desludging operators, etc. The team also visited Sulabh International’s public toilets in Dhanbad to understand the current situation concerning public sanitation facilities. The team visited the sites identified as high-risk NSS pockets based on economic vulnerability, waterlogging risk, difficult access, and proximity to water bodies and validated their status.
As observed, the sanitation situation in these cities is not significantly different from that in other cities in the region. One of the most challenging issues in Dhanbad was the lack of an available and accessible safe water supply. The scarcity of water has not only impacted the availability of drinking water but also the production of greywater and influenced sanitation practices. One unique element in this town is the periodic movement of mining workers’ residence every 10-15 years. This poses as a challenge when it comes to developing long-term sanitation strategies.
Conversely, in some of the visited NSS pockets in Ramgarh, the team observed a contrasting situation regarding availability of water supply. Relatively, the water supply is more abundant here compared to Dhanbad as locals obtain their water from wells. The team also acknowledged the impact of cultural and social factors on the accessibility of existing sanitation infrastructure. Notably, in certain NSS pockets, women expressed reluctance in utilizing community toilets situated far from their households. Numerous challenges related to inadequate sanitation conditions were evident across the NSS pockets in both towns. Besides, the active engagement of SHGs in both the cities was something positive to operationalize the sanitation services. They have already engaged in generating financial benefit by selling sanitation related products. This observation reflects the potential of using SHGs as partner to operationalize the sanitation services in both the cities.
Amidst these challenges, the team identified opportunities to establish the CWIS approach in both Dhanbad and Ramgarh. The recent visit by the AIT-GWSC team and partners marks the beginning of our sanitation journey in the State of Jharkhand, specifically focusing on CWIS.
Note: The expert team of 3 women and 10 men from AIT-GWSC, Innpact Solutions , Saniverse Environmental Solutions, Modern Architects for Rural India (MARI), and Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited (CRISIL) joined for this trip and had their first face-to-face meeting after several virtual sessions