Nestled in the historic region of Marathwada, the city of Nanded as per a 2020 study only managed to treat 45% of its wastewater safely, with 57% of its households connected to open drains considered unsafe due to transfer on waterborne diseases.[1]While the city plans and negotiates is way to getting its first bullet train, undoubtedly an economically prosperous decision for a region previously ravaged by both droughts and floods, a pressing issue lurks in the shadows; the need to increase momentum in intentionally integrating essential services for all communities while developing city plans


The inequity gap between the urban rich and poor is most stark with respect to access to services such as water, sanitation and hygiene. 1 out of 6 Indians in Urban Areas live in slums where on average approximately 70% of sewage is left untreated. A recent study on inequality in access to water and sanitation in India demonstrated that only 6 % of poorest households have improved sanitation facilities as compared to 93 % households in the richest wealth quintile  ,  a statistic that has only worsened due to the ongoing pandemic. As city officials and sanitation experts continue to be on the quest to create accessible, sustainable infrastructure for the urban poor, a new framework to approach sanitation services has arisen – City Wide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS)

Created through joint efforts of organizations such as the Gate’s Foundation, the World Bank and Water Aid, CWIS represents a paradigm shift, putting hybrid sanitation as a centre piece of urban planning, placing equity, public health and the environment at the forefront. As outlined by the World Bank, a CWIS effort is one which

  • Ensures that all citizens have access to services targeted at safely managing human waste across the sanitation value chain;
  • Allows for the creation of an environment promoting diverse technical solutions for onsite/ offsite, centralized or decentralized systems;
  • Develops and motivates political will and accountability to implement projects, allocate long term funding and creates institutional arrangements and incentives for operation and maintenance of inclusive infrastructure;
  • Focuses on target service delivery to marginalized groups with special attention to the non-infrastructure elements such as capacity building and Behaviour Change
  • Synergises interlinkages between complementary services such as water supply, grey water management, disaster management resiliency etc.

Though in its nascent stages, the concept of CWIS cities has taken root across several Indian States. CWIS model cities have been established across Wai, Trichy, Narsapur and Warangal with elements of city wide inclusive sanitation being incorporated in urban sanitation planning in Odisha as well as Uttar Pradesh. The scaling of such efforts across cities have resulted in some novel initiatives such as the creation of Gender Resource Centres for equity of funding in City Sanitation Budgets, the promotion of affordable desludging funded through cross subsidization and rated tariffs, strengthening support to women led self-help groups (SHGs), employing ICT tools to track and map sanitation solutions, empowering sanitation workers across the value chain through capacity building, creating gender and disable friendly infrastructure and the creation of dedicated polices and departments to ensure safer transportation, treatment and disposal of waste amongst many others.

What can we learn from the above model cities when it comes to planning and scaling for CWIS interventions ?

  • Recognizing inclusive and safe sanitation as a human right should be at the centre of all interventions. Delivery of sanitation services needs to be customer centric with a focus on identifying and ensuring last mile access to the most vulnerable. While the recent SBM 2.0 guidelines laid great emphasis on Inclusive Sanitation and universal access, there is still great potential to mainstream voices from marginalized communities in all levels of planning and execution.
  • In order to sustain CWIS projects, there needs to be a continuous commitment to working partnerships across the value chain. Initiatives such as Mission Shakti focuses on providing technical and capacity building support to sanitation oriented SHGs and outreach efforts such as the Malasur campaign aim to boost public awareness and partnership. There is a growing consensus that greater buy in through private sector participation , which has proved successful across many APAC countries such as in Bangladesh’s SWEEP model to provide quality services at preferential process and boost public sector credibility. Governments should also remain key stake holders not only in planning and tracking for solutions, but also to build capacity and know how on narratives associated with CWIS.
  • Envisaging simultaneous and continuous improvement across the entire value chain. Infrastructure and Services for city wide service delivery are fund intensive, it is imperative for cities to innovate on how to leverage and improve existing urban infrastructure to maximise outreach. Innovation in space and geographical constraints, promotion of co- treatment facilities, clustering for urban rural convergences in smaller cities and life cycle and cost analysis for tracking and monitoring technology used in desludging and treatment are some areas of consideration. Beyond incrementalism, this concept entails a “big picture” approach from a policy point of view, the idea is not only to focus on technology but innovate on outcomes which may cover improved worker gear and skill standards, more consistent quality checks on treatment plants and urban slum upgradation.
  • Political will and accountability will only be mobilized upon the realisation that sanitation is the key pillar to urban economic success. With the popularisation of setting up “smart cities” across India’s commercial hubs, concepts such as connected hygiene centres and smart waste management models have begun gaining greater acceptance to tackle increasing population density . Sustainable CWIS practices are only as good as the regulatory frameworks supporting them, it is imperative for government to ensure allocation of funding, assignment of responsibility and assign standards and laws for monitoring outcomes for inclusive sanitation.

Mainstreaming CWIS also entails developing convergences in complimentary policy areas of urban planning which may be promoted through inter – department synergies in local government such as those between the water board, department of social and economic welfare and department of disaster management. Accountability too remains a key factor to ensure benchmarking and sustenance of efforts.
It is estimated that by 2050 more than 2.5 billion people will be added to urban cities world-wide which could potentially further the “urban service divide”. The planning and effective execution of CWIS supported by the levers of universality, equity, safety and accountability provides a transformative entry point in urban planning which balances provision of essential services to vulnerable communities.

To learn more about CWIS visit this page



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