The Sanitation Project
The last few years have seen incredible progress on sanitation in India and globally, however, there has almost been no attention given to the plight of millions of sanitation workers who work across the value chain. They work in extremely hazardous and inhumane conditions, directly handling human waste, dying in sewers or trapped in septic tanks, face health problems with lifespans 15 years less than the average. Furthermore, they work on informal labor contracts with less than minimum wage. They are socially ostracised due to the deeply entrenched cultural and caste divides in India. Women are especially affected. Existing efforts are largely restricted to unidimensional “human-rights” solutions and there has been a lack of strategic focus.
The Sanitation Workers Project is a structured, first-of-its-kind 5-month long study of sanitation workers across India carried out by Dalberg Advisors in 2017, with the support of The Gates Foundation.
The state of sanitation workers remains a blind spot, as workers face significant challenges on multiple fronts – financial, health and social. To develop a blueprint with solutions for this murky problem, we interacted with all the stakeholders – workers across the sanitation value chain, government officials, contractors, NGOs and experts.