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Reflections on the Addis workshop on using CLTS in urban and peri-urban contexts

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I am placing below some reflections after attending the urban CLTS workshop in Addis:

1. My objective in attending was to enhance my knowledge of the understanding and practice of the application of CLTS in urban areas, the issues involved and potential ways to move forward. My objective was more than adequately addressed by the range of experiences that I got to hear about.

2. What I have distilled from these three days (both during sessions and conversations at meal times and in coffee sessions) is summarized below under a certain number of headings.

Understanding and Practice of CLTS in Urban Areas
(i) CLTS in urban is understood in large part in the same way it is perceived by many people in the rural context- an approach that has a set of triggering tools to create a demand for toilets. While there is considerable discussion about empowered communities taking action to address their sanitation situation, this is essentially the way CLTS is used by a whole lot of practitioners.
(ii) Consequently, application of CLTS is basically visualized in the context of communities in slums / informal or unauthorized settlements lacking toilet facilities that can be triggered (in a manageable size) to either:
a) build their own toilets or
b) in a context of tenure / space issues create pressure to demand toilets as a right.

Issues Confronting Urban Sanitation
Since the urban situation is more complex and different from what practitioners confront on the rural side, there are a number of areas that pose a problem.
(i) What is the 'community' to be targeted? What boundaries to adopt in a dense, continuous, urban agglomeration? How to define in the context of a transient, shifting population?
(ii) From a public health perspective what area to define for purposes of ODF declaration? The continuum stretches from a neighbourhood to an entire city!
(iii) How to trigger in a context in which traditional methods (applied routinely in rural areas) might not be practical (transect walks are not feasible or mapping is not understood)?
(iv) How to define ODF? in the rural context, a toilet that confines safely is implicitly assumed to incorporate safe disposal or at least allows a time period subsequent to ODF achievement for appropriate systems to be put in place to ensure safe disposal. But in a dense, urban context it is necessary to, ab initio, consider safe disposal beyond the toilet, as an essential component of becoming ODF.
(v) What are the technology options available to the community to become ODF? When these need to go beyond the toilet to incorporate disposal options, how should the community engage to consider these options and exercise choice? Should community be conceived as a continuum from neighbourhood to city exercising choices at different levels to attain the ODF objective? What changes does this introduce in the way matters such as enabling environment, empowerment and triggering are conceived?
(vi) In the urban context, solid waste waste management and drainage are often even more prominent in community perception than excreta confinement- should CLTS target an ODF++ or 'total sanitation' goal from the beginning or in a phased manner?
vii) If the goal is ODF, whether defined as incorporating a separate safe disposal system or going even further as an ODF++ situation, then what forms should the monitoring and verification system take?
viii) This larger view of ODF brings with it higher financing requirements. How should this be viewed in a CLTS context? Should larger infrastructure needs of sewer systems or FSM or SWM be seen as as 'external' to the community which are to be arranged by a service provider that does not belong to the community or as integral to a decision to be taken by an entire urban unit constituting the community that should 'own' even the service provider?

How to deal with these Issues?
There are two ways to address these issues depending on whether CLTS is viewed narrowly or in a broader context.

a)  If CLTS is viewed narrowly as an approach that constitutes a set of triggering tools to shift a community from open defecation to behaviour that favours a confined space for this practice then these issues would be addressed on the following lines. The community in the urban context is a neighbourhood of manageable size that in large or small measure practices open defecation and CLTS can help trigger this community. Appropriate triggers can be devised to fit the situation and once triggered, the community will find ways to access toilets. Safe conveyance, treatment or disposal and additional requirements like SWM would be subsequent stages that would be addressed by agents external to the community. These will be addressed by the community demanding this services (through FSM or sewers and SWM) from a specific service provider or the urban administrative unit. Discussions and decisions on options to be adopted to ensure such goals and about financing these requirements will lie outside the domain of the 'community' although the community can seek to influence them.

This view of CLTS is easier to understand and implement for traditional practitioners. The weakness of this narrow view of CLTS is that it may end up achieving little more than a temporary shift to fixed point defecation by neighbourhoods where open defecation is practiced. The entire urban unit may be failing to treat and dispose excreta safely (this is usually the case). However, those areas that possess toilets and confine / convey excreta away do not feel they live in a non ODF environment that is inimical to the public health of all residents. The urban unit as a whole is thus not involved in visualizing its situation and working towards becoming an ODF community. Priority for financing of appropriately managed infrastructure options that ensure that the waste is conveyed, treated and disposed of safely from all segments of the urban unit, can end up being a causality in such a situation.

b) Viewing CLTS in an urban context requires keeping upfront the core principles of CLTS and applying them constructively to address each of the issues outlined earlier. CLTS, at its core, is a recognition of sanitation as a public good that everyone (the entire urban unit) must adopt for everyone to gain. This adoption by all, is a collective behaviour change that only occurs when the community (entire collective) is able to analyze its behaviour, is empowered to take action and resolves to take action to change its situation. Policies or actions that create barriers in this process of self realization and action, that negate in any way the feeling of 'ownership' by the collective or create the impression that this is a responsibility external to the community must be avoided.

c) CLTS in the urban context, involves, dealing with the 'community' at different levels. Like in the rural case, an enabling environment is critical if sustainable change is to be achieved. The city (urban unit) must be functionally responsible for sanitation outcomes and have the autonomy to decide and finance these outcomes. It must not be viewed as a responsibility that is to be undertaken by an agency outside the city as a community. Triggering the city as unit and specific neighbourhoods practicing OD or failing to confine and dispose of excreta safely, are both necessary in the practice of urban CLTS. Triggered communities at different levels need to take a view on the options available to them to become ODF in the true sense of the term. For this, a situation analysis (in some detail) may be essential in advance since it is impractical to impose a long wait on a community seeking to become ODF. This situation analysis can also be a source of triggering inputs to ignite the community at various levels. The situation analysis will also yield the baselines (in terms of safe containment, conveyance, treatment and disposal) against which progress in becoming ODF will need to be measured.

In the course of the workshop, there was, in my view, a movement among participants, towards understanding the broader dimension of urban CLTS, the need to engage with the city (urban unit) as a whole and for prior detailed situation analysis as a means to assist in both triggering and deciding between options at various levels of the community.

Let me end by thanking you for organizing an event that helped crystallize views on urban CLTS and enabling me to reflect on this important area.

Deepak Sanan is an Officer of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Himachal Pradesh, India. He is also a Managing Committee member of the CLTS Foundation.

Date: 5 July 2016