Approximately 600 million Indians face extreme water stress and, although the State of Bihar has healthy water supplies, consistent and clean water remain unavailable for much of the population.

Currently, only 11.7% of the population of Bihar has a piped water supply and the state is yet to be declared Open Defecation Free (ODF).  During summer, the southern part of Bihar becomes water-stressed and, during the monsoon season, the northern part faces recurrent floods, leaving the area waterlogged for several months. The flooding makes the drinking water unsafe due to fecal contamination, causing an increase in the incidence of diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, and cholera. In Gaya District and Madhubani District, communities face significant challenges in finding safe and sustainable access to WASH services. In North Bihar, Madhubani is a flood-prone district and, in South Bihar, Gaya is drought-prone with chemical contamination in its groundwater.

Our project in these two districts will support community-managed WASH services to ensure a consistent piped water supply, develop water quality monitoring and introduce measures towards sustaining services by establishing entrepreneurial models of services and supplies. The project will support district and state administrations to promote community-managed models and to assess and improve the functioning of water quality labs. Addressing critical WASH behaviors like menstrual hygiene management (MHM), handwashing with soap and safe waste management is also important for the initiative's success.

Girls smiling in a class
WaterAid/ Prashanth Vishwanathan
Girls smile while attending class, Gaya district, Bihar, India.

Increased use of safe, inclusive and gender-sensitive WASH facilities 

Improving community-led operations and constructing physical infrastructure is essential to increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitation in the Gaya and Madhubani districts. The first step to do this is by expanding access to WASH in communities, in schools, health centers and public places. The project aims to have and maintain piped water supply throughout the designated communities. This will be achieved through the promotion of operation and management, water security, water safety and water quality. Community participation will be a central part of the WASH planning and implementation process.

Another part of improving access to water and sanitation is strengthening the knowledge and skills of key stakeholders to provide and manage safe, inclusive and gender-sensitive water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. This will include liaising with and advocating the Government to fund WASH infrastructure and services. District officials will be trained in the process to end Open Defecation, and local governance units will be made responsible for the implementation of piped water supply. The project will also aim to provide technical support to district and state governments to refine policies and guidelines on WASH services and advocate for inclusive WASH facilities.

Improving hygiene and sanitation behaviors 

The project will promote communities’ safe and sustainable adoption of WASH services and better hygiene practices. This will lead to improved WASH behaviours in target communities and institutions. At the institutional level, WASH behaviour change models will be used to promote healthy WASH practices, such as handwashing with soap, and safe disposal of child feces. At the community level, activities like the training of local students, artists, and leaders in hygiene promotion techniques will be used to increase knowledge of good hygiene practices. Also crucial to the project’s goals are improvements to MHM which will be supported by the training of health workers and health volunteers on MHM. The project will also support the Government in developing guidelines on key WASH practices.

Family standing outside a home.
WaterAid/ Prashanth Vishwanathan
A family stands outside their home in Gaya district, Bihar, India.

Improved income opportunities for women and youth

Proper WASH management requires local professionals who understand the infrastructure and can continue to support behavior changes long after we are gone. With training, these jobs become economic opportunities for the locals. As a part of the project, a group of women WASH mechanics will be trained in the retrofitting of WASH infrastructure. Community-led WASH business models will also be developed to ensure sustainable growth that is long-lasting and beneficial to the locals.

Sustainable access to WASH services also requires new technology for water and sanitation services. By providing technical assistance and training on sanitation and demonstrate new technologies at the ward level, communities will gain economic benefits from the improvements to WASH facilities. Additionally, by integrating new technology with government schemes, the project will maintain efficiencies.

WaterAid in India   

Although there has been significant progress, 94 million people in India still live without a source of clean water. One in ten people in India do not have access to safe drinking water and two in five lack handwashing facilities with soap and water. WaterAid is working in several parts of India, bringing unique solutions to the WASH crisis across the country. This project complements several other WaterAid initiatives to improve rural access to sanitation. There are also other WaterAid projects in India tackling the WASH needs of a rapidly growing urban population and developing the necessary WASH access required for students to thrive.