Sulabh liberates 60,000 scavengers, tots up $32 mn revenue: UNDP

overcoming fear of the blank page

Sulabh International is the reason I became interested in all things
toilety. Its good work has been highlighted in a UN report this week.
the story below is from

———- Forwarded message ———-
New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) Sulabh International, a 38-year-old movement
promoting low-cost safe sanitation in the country, has liberated over
60,000 scavengers, a report by the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) released Tuesday said.

The report, focusing on the various strategies adopted across the
world to engage the poor, additionally said Sulabh’s revenues reached
$32 million in 2005, with approximately $5 million in surplus.

Sulabh maintains 6,500 public pay per-use toilets and by 2006, had
installed 1.4 million household toilets. An estimated 10 million
people used its facilities across the country, the report said.

“The public toilets run by Sulabh break even within eight to nine
months,” it added. “Facilities in prominent places were highly

There is ample scope for replication and even scaling up of the Sulabh
model that its founder Bindheshwar Pathak started in 1970, UNDP said.

“State governments that used to invite Sulabh into single-party
tenders have now started inviting competitive bids to build and run
public toilets,” it noted.

The UNDP report noted that while it was officially said in 2003 that
India had 676,000 scavengers – people, mainly women, who eke out a
living lifting human excreta – unofficial estimates peg the figure at
1.2 million.

Of them, Sulabh had liberated 60,000 through various skill development
and adult literacy programmes; for instance, it trains women in food
processing and markets their products.

It has successfully used internal and external resources to start an
English medium school and a variety of business incubators targeted at
the erstwhile scavengers to get them accepted in mainstream society,
the report said.

Sulabh, which employs over 50,000 associates and presently operates in
26 states, also trained 19,000 masons who could build low-cost,
twin-pit toilets using locally available materials, UNDP said.

Focusing on the constraints Sulabh faced when it started off, the
report identified three key hurdles.

First, there was a lack of market information: businesses just did not
know whether poor people would pay to use toilets and related
facilities or install toilets.

Second, there existed an acute lack of widespread knowledge on
propagating low-cost hygiene solutions.

And finally, perhaps the most critical factor: the poor did not have
access to finance to provide for sanitation.

The report then highlights the strategies Sulabh adopted to overcome
these obstacles.

It first developed an initial pilot project and demonstrated the
popularity of pay-per-use toilet facilities in urban Bihar and
pioneered the low-cost toilet model to be installed in poor
residential areas.

Next, it constructed a museum and planned for a sanitation university,
took its own designs and trained other non-governmental organisations
(NGOs), and started policy dialogue with governments.

“Sulabh influenced the central government and over 100,000 public
toilets will be constructed in addition to local government’s
provision of toilet-related loans and subsidies,” the report said.


This News is featured in

2 Responses

  1. Yeah, that’s cool. That’s the main reason I like Sulabh International: it’s not just about providing sanitation, but about finding new jobs and new lives for the sanitation workers. A holistic approach!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Nat Newman - portrait

Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.


The Office of Dead Letters


latest posts

words | travel | life | beer

Do you like:

✍ words
🌴 travel
😻 life
🍺 beer?

If you said YES to any of those things, then my newsletter is for you!

Sent just once a month, you’ll get to hear about what’s going on in the world of writing, read insider tips on interesting places to visit, and hear a lot of stories about beer.