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Sanitation and Health Rights in India (SHRI)

SHRI eliminates open defecation in rural India by building community toilet blocks that are sustained by the sale of potable water.

Photo of Anoop Jain
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SHRI provides toilets and safe drinking water to rural Indians currently living without these vital services. These 600 million people consequently endure catastrophic health, economic, and social outcomes. SHRI solves this by building community sanitation facilities. Each facility is equipped with a minimum of 16 toilets, eight for men and eight for women. Toilet use is free. This is done intentionally to encourage use and is an essential step in communities where open defecation has been normalized over generations. Human waste is collected in a biogas digester located at the SHRI facility. This concrete tank enables the organic waste to decompose and produce methane gas. This energy source is used to power a generator to produce electricity, which SHRI uses to operate a water filtration plant that filters 1,000 liters per hour. SHRI thus improves access to toilets for free and safe drinking water for a nominal fee. The revenue generated from the sale of safe drinking water offsets each facility’s operation and maintenance costs. This will dramatically improve health, social, and economic outcomes throughout rural India.

How would you describe the stage of development of your idea?

  • Piloting completed

How big or scalable is the potential of your idea?

Over 600 million Indians defecate in the open and 100 million lack access to safe drinking water, resulting in otherwise preventable diseases and mortality. This tragic burden is ubiquitous throughout India’s 29 states. SHRI currently operates in the state of Bihar where 70% of the 104 million residents lack access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. SHRI has focused its efforts in the Supaul district, where 1.8 million of the 2.2 million residents do not have toilets or potable water. SHRI operates two community sanitation facilities in Supaul, serving over 1,600 daily toilet users and selling over 20,000 liters of potable water weekly. This success has led to funding, enabling increased access to toilets and water for 10,000 more people in 2016. Additional proof of concept will demonstrate that SHRI’s model will end open defecation while improving access to potable water. SHRI aims to attract $20 million by 2021 to improve WASH outcomes for more than 1 million Indians.

Explain the sustainability aspect of your idea

Many organizations and government agencies have built toilets in India. However, people revert to defecating in the open because this infrastructure often breaks and is not kept clean. Ensuring the sustainability of sanitation infrastructure is vital because it motivates consistent toilet use, which will end open defecation in India. SHRI sustainably finances the maintenance of its toilets through the sale of safe drinking water. Contaminated groundwater is filtered using DrinkWell Systems’ patented resin technology. Fluoride, arsenic, iron, and bacteria are removed, producing World Health Organization certified safe drinking water. This is sold in the community for $0.008 per liter. The revenue is used to offset facility operating costs, which include staff salaries, cleaning supplies, and water plant maintenance. SHRI began selling safe drinking water in March, 2015 and now sells nearly 21,000 liters weekly. SHRI’s growing customer base will make one site cash-flow positive within two months, and SHRI’s largest site will be cash-flow positive by the end of 2016. This will motivate sustained use of its toilets while also improving access to safe drinking water.

What types of financing would be required for your idea to be successful?

SHRI aims to serve millions of Indians with essential WASH services within five years. Achieving this goal requires funding from a variety of sources. SHRI has raised nearly $400,000 from funders such as Echoing Green, Global Poverty Project, MassChallenge, and Y Combinator. This enabled SHRI to construct two community sanitation facilities and will pay for the construction of four facilities by the end of Q2 2016, thus improving access to toilets and safe drinking water for 6,000 Indians. However, SHRI’s goal is to gain sustained financial support from the Indian government, which has pledged $30 billion to eliminate open defecation by 2019. SHRI has demonstrated that it will play a major role in helping India achieve that goal and should be eligible for government financial support. SHRI has already leveraged its early success to secure government funding in the state of Jharkhand, where the government of Bokaro district has pledged $25,000 for SHRI to install its sanitation model there in spring 2016. This demonstrates SHRI’s viability and potential to scale outside of its pilot area in Bihar. Bokaro district will provide SHRI with an additional $300,000 if this first project is completed successfully, allowing SHRI to reach 18,000 people in this region. By leveraging foundational support, SHRI has made inroads to securing sustained government support. SHRI will continue combining philanthropic dollars with government funds to scale its WASH services throughout India.

If you are proposing to partner with other organizations, please explain their role and reason for partnership.

SHRI partners with DrinkWell Systems (DWS), a Kolkata-based company that has manufactured over 1 million kgs of ion exchange resins for removing impurities from water. Over 250,000 people across India and Bangladesh rely on DWS’ patented technology that removes arsenic, fluoride, iron, bacteria, and contaminants from groundwater to produce WHO-compliant water. SHRI installs DWS plants at its facilities to produce and sell safe drinking water to generate a sustainable revenue stream. SHRI’s expertise lies in mobilizing communities to construct, operate, and use sanitation facilities, which is complimented by DWS’ ability to deploy a 2-column, 1,000 liter per hour system designed for 600 households in remote regions of India. DWS has a thorough understanding of market-based approaches having built a network of 200+ franchises that sell safe water to customers and operate profitably. DWS has received recognition by the India Department of Science & Technology, West Bengal Public Health Engineering Department, Wateraid, USAID, and Forbes. DWS has booked over $1 million in PHED funds to build water systems in India, so SHRI can leverage such relationships to fund sanitation facilities.

In-country experience

  • Yes, for two or more years

If you have been operating in India, what has been your focus?

Anoop Jain founded SHRI to improve access to toilets and potable water in India in 2010. However, it took two years to go from an idea to a funded project. SHRI received its first major financial contribution of $30,000 in 2012 from the Dell Social Innovation Challenge. This money and contributions from private donors enabled SHRI to construct its pilot community sanitation facility. Since then, SHRI's team has deepened its commitment to the cause of improving access to toilets and potable water. By the end of March 2016, SHRI will be serving 4,000 combined daily toilet and water customers. We are aiming to triple that number by the end of this year. SHRI understands that improved WASH outcomes are a vehicle for health equity and social and economic justice. That is precisely why we have never wavered from our mission and why we will continue fighting alongside communities to end open defecation and provide access to safe drinking water.

Is your organization currently legally registered in India?

  • Yes

What states or districts will you target/are you targeting within India?

SHRI operates in the Supaul and Saharsa districts of Bihar where the majority of residents lack access to toilets and potable water. We remain committed to working in this region while expanding to other areas needing sanitation infrastructure. Having received funding from the Bokaro district government in Jharkhand, SHRI will deploy its model there in 2016. SHRI is registered as a section 25 trust in India, allowing us to work directly with local governments and communities throughout India.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I struggle coming to terms with the fact that many of SHRI’s staff and community allies are forced to defecate outside and live without access to safe drinking water. These incredibly resilient people belong to the latest generation of indigent Indians enduring the terrible indignity of not having access to essential sanitation services. While they represent just a handful of the 600 million Indians living as such, to me, these are the faces of this tragic statistic. I work with a Bihar and US-based team that works tirelessly to reverse this devastating reality. Chandan and Prabin Kumar manage operations in Bihar, and with Joan DeGennaro, manage SHRI’s government relations to scale our model. Together, we have demonstrated early stage success that has garnered the support of Echoing Green, MassChallenge, the Global Citizen Award, Y Combinator, and recognition on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. We will leverage this success to achieve our goal of improved WASH outcomes throughout India.

Is this a new or recent idea for your organization? How does it differ from what you are already doing?

The community sanitation model emerged in 2012 while SHRI’s founding team spent months listening to the needs of community members. SHRI was originally going to use methane produced from the decomposition of human waste to generate electricity and charge portable 12-volt batteries that families could rent to electrify their homes. However, community members were more interested in gaining access to safe drinking water. SHRI reoriented its system in 2012 to accommodate this need. Since then, SHRI has constructed four community sanitation facilities. These serve 4,000 toilet users per day. SHRI now sells over 98,000 liters of safe drinking water to local community members, and revenue from these water sales ensures that SHRI’s facilities are kept clean and maintained. SHRI’s plans to continue to innovate on the most effective methods of building and managing its community sanitation facilities to increase access to sanitation based on the IDEO collaboration and refinement process.

What are the two or three biggest risks for your idea and how will you manage the risks?

SHRI uses revenue from water sales to ensure toilet cleanliness because we see that operation & maintenance (O&M) is a vital predictor of consistent use, which is key to ending open defecation. SHRI has seen 22% monthly growth in water sales since March 2015, but is only offsetting 57% of O&M costs through sales. SHRI is mitigating this risk by lowering monthly facility O&M cost from 60,000 INR at the pilot facility to 15,000 INR at the 4th facility by hiring fewer staff at each facility while maintaining the same quality of service. Another risk is how complicated caste relations deter segments of communities from using SHRI’s shared facilities. Through awareness campaigns executed by SHRI, communities now understand that even 1 person defecating in the open can threaten the health of an entire village. As a result, SHRI facilities are used daily by 90% of villages that are made up of lower and upper caste Hindus, and Muslims.

How would you propose to track or record the households or customers reached?

SHRI hires attendants who track toilet usage. SHRI facilities serves nearly 1,000 women, men, girls, and boys daily. However, SHRI is working to improve data collection accuracy. EToilet, another organization featured on the IDEO platform, has kindly offered assistance. Their technology utilizes coins to track toilet usage. SHRI is exploring the option of adopting this technology while also keeping toilet use free. SHRI will also save on its monthly O&M costs by reducing staff salary.

If you had two years and $250,000 USD in funding, how many households or customers would you reach?

With $250,000 in funding, SHRI will construct ten more community sanitation facilities, and improve access to toilets and potable water for 15,000 people. SHRI will do this well within two years. Hundreds of millions of Indians need immediate access to WASH services, and it is imperative that organizations spend money for this purpose efficiently and responsibly. SHRI has been incredibly successful in lowering construction costs, a key step on the pathway to scale. Our pilot facility cost $44,000, while our latest facility cost $25,000. Each SHRI facility improves toilet access for 1,500 people. Thus, SHRI spends $17 per person, or $80 for a family of five, to gain toilet access. This is significantly cheaper than the government, which spends $250 per family to build an individual household toilet that comes with no provisions for maintenance. SHRI will continue optimizing its costs as it scales throughout rural India. This will enable SHRI to convert future grants into greater impact.

How would you propose to invest $250,000 USD if you received philanthropic/grant funding support from

SHRI will invest funding from in vital sanitation infrastructure that will help 15,000 people gain access to toilets and potable water. Approximately 90% will be used to build SHRI community sanitation facilities that are equipped with toilets, a biogas digester, and water filtration plants. SHRI will use 10% of the funds to hire key staff who will guide SHRI through this expansion phase. These staff additions will oversee construction and operations outside of the geographic area where SHRI has been operating in thus far. Furthermore, by effectively scaling WASH services throughout rural India, SHRI will leverage its investment into funding support from the Indian government. SHRI will continue proving itself as a viable development partner for the Indian government. By demonstrating efficient and effective use of resources, SHRI will garner funding from the Indian government, which will further help us scale our work to the countless communities that need WASH services.

What type of support beyond grant funding are you most interested in?

SHRI is looking for support from expert advisors and collaborators who can help the organization scale our services. Until now, SHRI has worked exclusively in the Supaul district of Bihar, where the organization improved access to WASH services for over 4,000 people. Later this year, SHRI will begin constructing facilities in the Saharsa district in Bihar and the Bokaro district in Jharkhand. SHRI is looking for experienced partners to help us navigate this enormous transition.

Does your organization have Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) approval?

SHRI became a Section 25 company in India in 2015. Unfortunately, FCRA approval will take three years. However, Indian law allows for money to be sent from a US entity to an Indian one to execute specific tasks. This has been verified by our Indian accountant. SHRI has been writing contracts for every transaction that mandates what funds sent to India are supposed to be used for. Our accountant manages these transfers and verify that funds are being used for their intended purpose.

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SHRI Brochure.pdf

This is SHRI's brochure. It describes the organization's mission, our accomplishments, and our vision for the future.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Aunna Wilson

So excited to hear about this partnership with DWS and the incredible evolution of SHRI since first hearing about you in 2012! I know that your team has had to overcome some pretty deep rooted attitudes and behaviors related to sanitation, common uphill battles in public health. Can you tell us a bit more about the unique ways that you have worked with the community to shift behavior and encourage uptake of the toilets?

Photo of Anoop Jain

Hi Aunna Wilson !

Thanks for the note! It's been terrific to see the growth and development of Pasand as well! 

When we first opened our pilot community sanitation facility, we noticed many people were using the toilets immediately. However many people, who lived a little bit far away (5 minute walk) were not. We asked them why. They said that in order for them to get to our facility they have to walk down a path that is surrounded by trees and has no lights. They were afraid to walk to our facility early in the morning and late at night. So we used the generator at our site to and put up bamboo polls with lights on top of them, and created our own network of street light. We had over 150 new toilet users the next day. 

That is one example of how we are trying to address behavior change. We believe that everyone wants to use a toilet. But we recognize that there are factors that deter people from using toilets (fear, embarrassment, distance, etc). Our organization focuses on deconstructing those barriers so that people's desire to use a toilet overcomes the deterrent. In other words, we do not assume that we need to "convince" people to use a toilet. Rather, we want to find ways to help people actuate their desire to use a toilet. 

Would love to chat more about this as it is the most important aspect of the struggle to eliminate open defecation in India! Thanks for reaching out, and best of luck!


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