How can water and sanitation solutions be made more accessible to low-income households?

Posted by Justin Kuhlmann on 25 Jun, 2018

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Water rituals: Indigenous water purifying methods for health and hygiene

Posted by Deepak Singh on 25 Jun, 2018

In response to the OpenIdeo challenge on 'water and sanitation', Lipika and her team, together with urban youth from worker settlements, co-designed the concept of Water Rituals. First, they understood how youth makes use of mobile technology. Second they researched the significance of water from various perspectives and conducted design sessions. After that, they conducted water labs by collecting water samples from the community to measure the quality of water in their communities.

Water Rituals intends to empower young women, by enabling them to be in charge of water-related tasks and also retrieve reliable information about water health, safety and hygiene. This vital information gives them the ability to safeguard their family and community health and change them from water carriers to water managers. Researching, adapting, testing, documenting and communicating complex water-health information in an accessible way, impacts young women and their family health; it can improve their socio-economic position, as they have the skills and knowledge to provide safe water. Developing an audiovisual environment in which water-health content is communicated in simple, attractive formats opens up the possibility of a healthier life for millions of people.

The aim of Water Rituals is, to co-research and -design with young women practitioners, an audiovisual environment (open source) and water-health content (open content) for a mobile platform targeting (semi)-illiterate people. The content consists of traditional purifying methods based on indigenous knowledge such as filtration using cloth, clay vessels, and local roots and nuts. Goal is to revive this indigenous knowledge for health and hygiene purposes through Water Rituals and bring these affordable environment-friendly purifying methods back into urban society.

By setting up a self-sustainable model, the young practitioners will be trained as water managers and service providers of safe water, by not only promoting and demonstrating the Water Rituals app, but they will also be encouraged to set up small businesses. The young women practitioners will also be trained in making DIY spectrometers and environment-friendly, indigenous, low-cost methods to treat water, such as using terracotta pots as filters, building solar cookers, applying the solar water disinfection (SODIS) method. They can sell these self-made spectrometers and filters to the community, and offer to filter the water for a small fee to households with limited time, providing them with a sustainable source of income. 

Moreover these low-cost filters will be sold via the app, which are made by these women. This way people will not only receive reliable water-health information, but also have access to tangible water purifying methods and filters, reducing risks for falling ill, improving water security for marginalized communities and eventually leading to an healthier life.

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Restart: Community-based restructuring of the built environment and sanitation systems for a sustainable future

Posted by Vivek Mehta on 25 Jun, 2018

Urur/Olcott Kuppam [UOK], a historic centuries-old fishing village [kuppam - term used to refer to coastal villages in ancient tamil literature], is a recognised settlement in Chennai and is quickly growing beyond its infrastructural capacity. Despite being a recognised settlement by the government, the infrastructure in UOK is extremely lacking, leading to very poor standards of living within the community and limited options for improvement. Unable to meet the basic needs of reliable water sources and proper sanitation for the residents of the kuppam, the village panchayat [local government] is looking for new ways to improve the quality of life for its community.

The first step forwards towards developing sustainable communities involves collaborating with the villagers to gain an understanding of how they live and use public space in their kuppam. This step is key to sustainable development, as it activates the villagers to preserve their historic and cultural identity while planning for the future. Through this collaboration, we can begin to understand the opportunities and constraints, provide a public infrastructure framework for the commons to thrive and furthermore, develop a working prototype of the system. Once issues have been identified, we will work with local organisations and the community to identify adoptable solutions that fit their unique needs. 

After completing a comprehensive report to outline the existing conditions in UOK, the community will work with funds from the government and other sources to identify and implement a proper water + sanitation system. The report will be used to leverage investments and outline a strategic framework for development in UOK. In addition, local residents will be taught a participatory building process of the wasterwater treatment system. The wastewater treatment system will address present issues including sewage accumulation and contaminated groundwater, while the education and participation of the villagers will ensure the system’s longevity and upkeep. 

Finally, the residents of UOK will be asked to contribute a sustainable monthly fee to maintain the system. 

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