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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Seva Mandir’s work area is located in the Aravalli hills and the terrain is hilly. The region receives an average annual rainfall of 630 mm, which is not evenly distributed, and suffers drought every three to five years. Villages, particularly amongst tribal communities, are spread over fairly wide areas with houses far away from each other, a fact which increases the per capita cost of interventions.

Around 50% of the villages have water sources with contamination in the form of faecal coliform and bacteria. More than 75% of villages have water with unsuitable levels of nitrate, fluoride or dissolved solids. Water-handling practices are another major reason for contamination.

As a result, families in rural areas suffer from water-borne diseases, but they do not have access to appropriate technological solutions for treating

drinking water.  Only about 50-60% of villages have access to clean drinking water. In hilly hamlets, unwalled wells located near streams are common sources, but they are prone to contamination during the monsoon as rainwater run-off brings all kinds of dirt, including animal dung and human excreta.

Sanitation coverage (toilet construction) has improved over the last few years as a result of various government and non-government initiatives as well as families’ own initiatives, but in our work area around 20-60% of families across different panchayats still do not have access to a toilet. According to reports, even in villages declared open-defecation free (ODF), about 18% of households still do not have access to toilets.

More than a third of those who own toilets still defecate in the open. Even when a family owns a toilet, not all members, particularly children and the elderly, use it all of the time. Seasonality is a significant factor in understanding habit formation amongst users: only 45% of households use toilets in all seasons of the year.

The government programmes dealing with the different components of WASH - rural drinking water, sanitation, hygiene/health and education - in rural areas are not effectively linked at the level of execution. There have also been few effective efforts to change behaviour with relation to toilet use.

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