It’s nearly impossible for people to stay healthy if they live somewhere without clean water or sanitation. Asha makes slums safer places to live by helping residents get access to water, toilets, paved roads, street lighting and other amenities.
Typical slums have every kind of environmental problem you can imagine. Temporary huts that leak when it rains and provide hardly any barrier to heat or cold. Muddy lanes and poor drainage. Scavenging animals sharing space with humans. Scarce water supplies, or communal facilities in disrepair. No toilets, or only around 1 for each 125 people. Lack of electricity, cramped conditions and no security.
Most slum residents have struggled to find somewhere to settle and are mainly concerned with earning a living. Very few are motivated to improve the slum environment, and so all the problems remain or get worse. A lack of shared responsibility creates problems in maintaining water pumps or toilets that may be installed, and the threat of eviction is always present.
Many slums are ignored by the authorities, so residents’ pleas for water supplies or garbage disposal often go unanswered. The result is inevitable: settlements remain vulnerable to the elements, lack of water and sanitation increase disease, and the residents’ sense of helplessness leads them to accept their situation and fall deeper into poverty.
Communities taking action
Asha works to make community members aware of their right to safe water and sanitation. We show members of community groups, particularly the women, how to write applications to government departments for better water supplies, electricity connections and other basic amenities. With training, they can work as effective pressure groups and develop independent links with influential staff of government departments.
Over the years, community groups have successfully got lanes paved, areas of swampy ground drained, water pumps installed, tube wells dug and toilet complexes built. All these things dramatically improve their quality of life, and that of their fellow slum residents.
Starting education at a young age
We target children and young people within slum areas to give them a sense of community responsibility and make sure that they know the importance of a sanitary environment. Children’s groups carry out regular sanitation drives and urge community residents to join them in keeping the slum lanes clean.
A ground-breaking housing scheme
Many people now own their own homes thanks to a housing scheme developed by Asha. In partnership with the government, Asha formed a housing co-operative that granted slum residents rights to a plot of land. They then re-built their homes on the allocated plots using materials from their original shelters and additional materials bought with the help of bank loans. Reasonable maintenance charges make it possible for communities to have street lights, safe water supplies, paved roads and community centres. The scheme made a huge difference: some areas have developed to such an extent that nobody would consider them slums anymore.