Ever since the Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi announced the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) on October 2nd, 2014, safe and sustainable sanitation has emerged as a hot button issue in India. The initiative has galvanised key stakeholders across the country and the progress has been extremely impressive with over 90 million toilets constructed nationally.
Maharashtra has been one of the top performing states in this journey. The state has built around 6 million toilets and has already achieved ODF status in the past year, almost 18 months before the national deadline.
In order to achieve social returns of safe and sustainable sanitation, the narrative needs to move beyond toilet access and an enhanced emphasis needs to be placed on increasing toilet usage, its maintenance and ensuring treatment of faecal waste.
This phase will be more challenging than the first and will require active collaboration between the government, development and private sector to support effective program models across the sanitation value chain. The size and persistence of the sanitation challenge, despite several efforts to tackle it, make it abundantly clear that a more informed and structured platform is required to support companies in making the right investment decisions in WASH.
Hence, Samhita Social Ventures and India Sanitation Coalition, in partnership with CEPT University, and with support from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Government of Maharashtra and UNICEF have set up the Corporate Platform for WASH in Maharashtra.
The WASH Platform builds synergistic collaboration between multiple stakeholders from the private sector, development sector and the government, to identify, implement and replicate high impact sanitation projects across the sanitation value chain, starting from the state of Maharashtra.
The platform currently focuses on Maharashtra, catering to both urban and rural areas. It will be replicated to other states in a staggered manner. Maharashtra presents a good opportunity to demonstrate and pilot the sanitation platform based on certain enabling characteristics:
- One of the largest corporate hubs in India
- Strong political will and action from urban and rural departments within Government of Maharashtra
- Presence of enabling networks
- Presence of large implementation and expert partners
The Swachh Maharashtra Grand Challenge is the flagship project of the WASH platform. It is a pan-India innovation challenge that will identify, pilot and scale 3-5 innovative sanitation programs in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. The winning innovations will cut across the sanitation value chain in key thematic areas such as toilet usage, school sanitation, sanitation workers and faecal sludge management. The Government of Maharashtra and UNICEF are key supporters of this project, in addition to the other partners of the WASH Platform.
Each sanitation theme will be financially supported by an anchor corporate partner. Viacom18 is the first company to come onboard and is supporting the Toilet Usage theme. RBL is supporting the Sanitation Workers theme.
A problem statement will be designed for each theme in close consultation with the government, sector experts, international foundations and the corporate anchor partner. Any organisation such as NGOs, social enterprises, academic institutions, for- profit organisation can submit innovation ideas and program models as applications to resolve the given problem statement.The call for applications is expected to begin in March 2019.
Samhita and the Maharashtra Government have recently signed two MoUs in the presence of Hon. Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis to implement the Swachh Maharashtra Grand Challenge. The first one is with the District Collector of Chandrapur and the latter is a tripartite agreement with Sahabhag (the CMO’s Social Responsibility Cell) and the Water Supply and Support Organisation (WSSO). Govt. support will help in scaling and replicating the successful innovative pilots to other districts of Maharashtra.
You can access the Grand Challenge website at https://washgrandchallenge.in.
Samhita Social Ventures is a social-sector consulting firm that builds long term partnerships between companies, donor organisations, government agencies and social organisations to maximize social impact. Supported by Mr. N.S. Raghavan, co-founder of Infosys, Samhita is an impact facilitation organisation providing solutions to companies and foundations by leveraging the strengths of diverse stakeholders in the development sector. Samhita also works with various international and domestic donor agencies and foundations like The Rockefeller Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Tata Trusts, The Union, GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), International Finance Corporation, The Power of Nutrition, Department for International Development on the development of high-impact social programs, which may involve capacity building, research, and event management. Samhita’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consulting practice has worked with over 50 leading companies to understand their CSR needs, shape CSR strategy, manage program implementation, facilitate partnerships between companies and social enterprises/NGOs and assess on-the-ground impact of such initiatives.
Samhita works across the spectrum of sectors and industries and with its extensive grassroots network, Samhita has created impact in multiple causes including healthcare, water, sanitation & hygiene, education, energy access, community empowerment, vocational training, rural livelihoods and financial literacy, amongst others.
Samhita believes that collaborative engagement models and leveraging innovation and technology are crucial to ensuring widespread on-the-ground impact in the social sector. With this belief Samhita has spearheaded the conception of the WASH Platform which aims to address critical issues within the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector on a large scale.
India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) is a network of organisations working towards improving the state of sanitation in India to attain Swachh Bharat Mission’s goals. ISC is hosted by FICCI, the apex industry organisation in India. ISC’s work revolves around four areas: advocacy; identification and dissemination of best practices; central and state government engagement; and partnerships and collaborations. Since its inception in June 2015, ISC has launched a series of initiatives which include technical and financial matchmaking between its partners, state level engagement with the governments of Maharashtra and Rajasthan, the establishment of the ISC-Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) India Chapter, and the initiation of sanitation-focused multi-stakeholder dialogues with various corporates. ISC currently engages with over 100 organisations.
ISC serves as a platform to connect funders and implementers. It explores partnership opportunities by facilitating connections between multiple organisations based on project/programme requirements or organisations needs. ISC provides various stakeholders opportunities to collaborate and work in a more effective manner. ISC believes in the philosophy of safe and sustainable sanitation for all. The four phases of such safe and sustainable sanitation are Build, Use, Maintain and Treat or BUMT in short. The WASH Platform in Maharashtra is ISC’s joint initiative with Samhita Social Ventures to further the cause of Water Sanitation and Hygiene more effectively.
Sahabhag is the social responsibility cell of the Government of Maharashtra. It is a digital platform to facilitate and encourage the participation of Citizens, Corporates, NGOs and other stakeholders of the society in citizen centric projects. Sahabhag serves as a gateway for peer to peer collaboration to encourage a positive impact on social wellbeing of the society. It attempts to develop an ecosystem to bring transparency and visibility in execution of projects under various government flagship programs.
One of the core objectives of Sahabhag is to collaborate and support, directly or indirectly, initiatives such as the WASH Platform which aim to foster sustainable development.
Water and Sanitation Support Organisation (WSSO), Department of Water Supply and Sanitation, Government of Maharashtra is an Organisation which aims to provide safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for all, at door step, at all times, in rural Maharashtra. The strong alignment of objectives of WSSO and WASH Platform makes it a perfectly synergistic fit for this initiative and compounds the impact that will be achieved through it.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), is a private foundation founded by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2000. The organisation’s efforts in India are closely aligned with India’s objectives - to improve the health and accelerate the social development of its citizens so as to enable millions of people to participate in the country’s growth and economic progress. BMGF works closely with India’s central and state governments, partners with community groups, non-profit organisations, academic institutions, the private sector, and development organisations, to achieve shared goals as it believes that we are poised to build a better future for India if we do it together. Its core work in the country is across four sectors: Health, Sanitation, Agricultural Development, and Financial Services for the Poor. The WASH Platform presents a unique opportunity for BMGF to further its cause which is why it has offered strategic support to maximize impact in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector.
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to protect the rights of every child. UNICEF has spent 70 years working to improve the lives of children and their families. UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) team works in over 100 countries worldwide to improve water and sanitation services, as well as basic hygiene practices. Last year, UNICEF’s efforts provided nearly 14 million people with clean water and over 11 million with basic toilets. UNICEF’s in-depth knowledge and vast experience accumulated by working across multiple geographies over the years will prove to be instrumental in the success of WASH Platform.
CEPT University is an academic institution located in Ahmedabad. It has expertise in Urban Planning, Sanitation, Faecal Sludge Management and related issues. It has developed a Performance Assessment System (PAS) for urban local bodies in Maharashtra. PAS helps ULBs to identify performance levels in sanitation planning, makings town ODF and financing. CEPT University has supported the Government of Maharashtra (GoM) in implementing the Swachh Maharashtra Mission (SMM) by preparing policy documents and guidance materials. At the local level, the CEPT team has supported small towns to become ODF by preparing plans and monitoring their progress. CEPT Universities’ expertise and its experience working in Maharashtra will be critical in improving the state of Sanitation.