Pilot Clean Water Initiative in India Proves Successful and Replicable
WaterPartners International, a nonprofit organization committed to providing safe drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries, recently completed a pilot WaterCredit Initiative program in India made possible with the support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The WaterCredit Initiative program provided safe water, sanitation and hygiene education that significantly improved the lives of more than 25,000 urban slum dwellers. The program will expand by developing scalable models that allow people to have safe water and sanitation access through microlending activities.
Although the global microfinance sector currently circulates an estimated $25 billion in loan capital, little of that is lent to improve the quality of water and sanitation in India. The WaterCredit Initiative developed and tested groundbreaking models for applying credit to water supply and sanitation projects.
Before the program, those who lacked access to water connections were forced to collect water from a water tanker, public tap or polluted streams often located miles from their homes. Women’s bathrooms in many of the slums have only three or four toilets, and serve over 300 women and children. Furthermore, long lines and a lack of privacy prevent many of the women from defecating during the day, subjecting them to serious health problems and dangerous situations at night.
In addition to hundreds of presentations focused on hygiene education, 4,815 household water and sanitation installments now serve more than 25,000 people as part of the WaterCredit Initiative. The program also funded the installment of 150 child-friendly toilets, which government officials are looking to replicate in other Bangalore slums. Microcredit loan funds totaling $347,000 are providing capital for similar initiatives that are expected to reach nearly 75,000 people. Repayment of these loans in the past is at nearly 100 percent. The WaterCredit Initiative program also enables lending between commercial banks and women’s self-help groups. Gramalaya, a local partner organization, facilitated $128,220 in loans between banks and self-help groups for water and sanitation projects. This accomplishment has enabled poor women to access capital, and impacted more than 6,000 people above and beyond the scope of the pilot program.
A Program with a Purpose
The WaterCredit Initiative aims to provide access to sustainable water and sanitation services for poor communities through non-governmental and microfinance organizations. In addition to easier access to credit and increased investment in water and sanitation facilities, this program improved the status of the women involved in microlending activities. Due to the impact of the WaterCredit program, many women felt less hesitant entering banks to obtain loans for the first time.
The WaterCredit Initiative also served as a launch pad for slum-dwelling women to pursue community development activities and procure loans for income-generating activities previously considered unacceptable for women. For example, a few self-help groups have started their own businesses, which include a rock quarry and a brick production company.
Providing health education, as well as access to safe water and sanitation facilities in the home, made a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people touched by the pilot WaterCredit program.