Unlocking Barriers to Inclusive WASH: Learnings from Slums in Bhubaneswar

Tripti Singh and Anju Dwivedi

Academic and Action Research


Urban sanitation in the Indian policy space received focused attention only after the mid2000s with the introduction of a slew of programmes such as Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), followed by National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the National Policy on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM). However, there remains limited literature based on empirical research on urban sanitation in India from the perspective of inclusion. While India made considerable physical progress in sanitation infrastructure creation in the last decade, it continues to grapple with ground realities that are causing widespread social inequalities in accessing water and sanitation. These inequalities differently affect marginalised groups – women, adolescent girls, transgender and persons with disabilities – in accessing water and sanitation, and act as barriers to opportunities for them. For the country to fulfil the commitment to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on the principle of ‘Leave no one behind’, it is imperative for it to place marginalised groups at the centre of programme and policy research. Often, those who are left behind face multiple marginalisations, as they live in poverty, under precarious conditions, with limited access to safe water and sanitation services. Against this backdrop, this study was conducted in 2018-19 across ten slums in Bhubaneshwar (Odisha) to explore to what extent marginalised groups access benefits of sanitation schemes and programmes. The government of Odisha has introduced a range of water and sanitation policies and strategies. These include the Odisha State Water Policy 2007, Odisha Urban Sanitation Strategies 2011 which was revised in 2017, Odisha Urban Sanitation Policy 2017, and Odisha State Urban Water Supply Policy 2013 that deal with provisioning of water and sanitation facilities for the urban poor. While this provides a conducive policy/ legal environment, it is critical to identify both the enabling mechanisms for inclusive sanitation and the barriers to inclusion that exist for marginalised groups in slums in the state. In this context, the study examined tangible and intangible effects of SBM-Urban at both household and community levels. At the household level, the study attempted to understand whether the programmes had a transformative impact on the gendered division of labour within the domestic sphere, particularly concerning water and sanitation roles and responsibilities. At the community level – in this case the slum level – the study examined whether the government programmes strengthened the participation of the most marginalised groups in decision-making processes of planning and implementation. The research proposes recommendations to support the government, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), researchers and academics in developing inclusive sanitation policies and programmes as well as promoting inclusive approaches on urban sanitation. Some of the key recommendations include developing a framework and guideline for inclusive sanitation, initiating inclusive WASH budgeting, and upgrading the design of existing community toilets (CTs) and public toilets (PTs) to cater to specific needs of transgender and persons with disability. 


Suggested Citation: Singh, T., & Dwivedi, A. 2020. ‘Unlocking social barriers to inclusive WASH: learnings from Bhubaneswar’. CPR Research Report. New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.14850.30401