Sanitation challenges of the poor in urban and rural settings: Case studies of Bengaluru City and rural North Karnataka

Manasi Seshaiah, Latha Nagesh & Hemalatha Ramesh


Bengaluru city faces severe challenges in providing sanitation infrastructure for the urban poor. Similarly, we have villages in North Karnataka that encounter problems of toilet access and related challenges. This paper addresses concerns both in city and rural contexts. We surveyed 400 respondents across 20 slums and 500 respondents in six districts of North Karnataka through survey instruments and focus group discussions (FGDs) to understand the problems with respect to toilet access and usage. Open defecation (OD) prevails in spite of several interventions made. In the urban contexts, lack of usage was largely due to technical discrepancies, behavioural concerns, space issue, water scarcity and poor maintenance of toilets. In the rural contexts, apart from water scarcity, restricted space, poor maintenance, cultural habits and financial constraints dominated non-usage of toilets. This paper captures these issues in-depth and provides some options in technologies and improved governance based on study findings and review of case studies. In the urban areas too, the topography of the slum location, operation and maintenance and apt technology plays an important role while in the rural areas, promoting education and awareness creates a positive impact on usage of toilets. Also, institutionalising the process of construction with transparency and accountability at various stages matters to ensure proper construction of toilets.

Keywords: toilet access, urban sanitation, rural sanitation

JEL Classification: Q01, Q59, R10, O18