Center for Water & Sanitation, CEPT University

Strategic Philanthropy | Feb, 2020

Center for Water & Sanitation, CEPT University

Quick Facts

  • Year Established: CEPT University was established in 1962; CWAS began its work in 2009.
  • Key Funders: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, HSBC, Arghyam, Department of International Development, Collective Good Foundation, National Institute of Urban Affairs, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Piramal Foundation
  • Key Partners: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, state governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Jharkhand, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, city councils of Wai and Sinnar, NFSSM Alliance, National Institute of Urban Affairs, AIILSG Mumbai, CHF International, Dalberg, Samhita, Tata Consultancy Services, Maharashtra Environmental Engineering Training and Research Academy (MEETRA), DASRA, IHE Delft
  • Systems Actors Engaged: Governments at the national, state and local levels, academic institutions, non-profit organisations, funders, experts and policy makers, networks and alliances, citizens

The problem: Urban India offers inconsistent access to safe sanitation services

As per the latest government estimates available, 70% of urban India’s sewage is untreated, constituting the biggest source of water pollution in the country. Challenges pertaining to water and sanitation in urban India do not stem from limited access to treatment technologies, unavailability of financial resources or an intent deficit on the part of decision makers. Rather, challenges emerge due to limited technical knowledge at the implementation level for sanitation, poor resource allocation, lack of reliable and updated information on service levels and quality, and limited management expertise among key stakeholders. The situation is particularly concerning as India’s urban population is expected to increase from 377 million presently to 600 millionxii by 2031, and given current trends, a large proportion will lack access to safely managed sanitation systems.

The solution: Championing evidence-led solutions to improve public services

The Center for Water and Sanitation (C-WAS) at CEPT University, is committed “to achieve access to equitable and inclusive water and sanitation for all.” To this end, C-WAS works as a thought leader, aggregating evidence through cutting-edge research, and using the information to develop tools that the government and other relevant stakeholders can utilise to strategise and implement urban water supply and sanitation programmes. C-WAS also supports the public design and delivery of urban sanitation services through capacity building of government bodies and evidence-led advocacy at the national, state and local levels.

Thematic areas of work for C-WAS are:

  • Urban sanitation
  • Service-level benchmarking
  • Sanitation finance
  • Water security


Systems solutions by C-WAS

Taking a systems approach, C-WAS focuses on collaborating with governments at all levels across city, district, state and central levels to assess performance and scale innovative solutions for improving the delivery of sanitation services in urban India. The solutions developed by C-WAS are designed to achieve universal coverage of safely managed sanitation to help the most vulnerable populations and geographies, and ensure sustainability.

Solving for suboptimal sanitation in urban India not only requires cutting-edge technical expertise but also the intent and ability to trigger action at scale to serve the large quantum of vulnerable populations residing in India. It is thus that C-WAS solutions for urban sanitation are designed for government adoption and strengthening of public services for city-level change. Developed cities will then become replicable models of excellence for reference to other similar cities and towns. As a technical partner to the government of Maharashtra, C-WAS supports the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in urban areas at the state and local levels, engaging deeply in the state. C-WAS is involved in a host of national and global efforts to provide solutions for the sector of urban sanitation in India. The value proposition of the systems solution offered through C-WAS is highlighted below:

Evidence aggregation at scale on urban sanitation systems

  • C-WAS began work in 2009 with the Performance Assessment System (PAS) Project to assess cities on key performance indicators for water, sanitation, storm water and solid waste services. These performance indicators included access and coverage, service levels and quality, financial sustainability, efficiency in service operations and equity- related aspects.
  • The PAS Project has become a major repository of urban water and sanitation data in India. Through PAS, C-WAS aggregates performance data of more than 900 cities covering six states of India and four sectors: water supply, sanitation, solid waste management and storm water drainage. It not only uses this data for its own solutions- development, but also makes it available in the public domain for other ecosystem actors. The website hosts more than 400 reports and presentations, and a range of tools. The portal receives more than 50,000 viewers every year.
  • PAS also focuses on services for the poor and unserved people through activities such as surveys for equity achievement, a slum-free action plan and pro-poor benchmarking of water and sanitation, to capture evidence of the needs of vulnerable communities.
  • The PAS Project also helps devise plans for performance improvement with tools that help solve for specific thematic areas, citywide sanitation and access for underserved communities.
  • 96.5M Population covered by data on PAS by C-WAS
  • 60+ Cities of Gujarat and Maharashtra for preparation of various thematic improvement plans

Government partnerships

  • The core responsibility for effective urban sanitation rests with the government. Any solution, however cutting-edge, would have suboptimal results, without proactive tailoring for government use. C-WAS interventions are therefore designed for the government to enable them to strengthen its planning and delivery of effective urban sanitation facilities.
  • C-WAS is a technical partner to the Maharashtra government through a Memorandum of Understanding for supporting the implementation of the SBM in urban areas, at the state and local levels.
  • C-WAS works with all levels of governments—national, state and local to enable development and uptake of sanitation policies and their effective implementation. Instead of working in parallel with government systems, C-WAS brings its core skills as an academic centre to strengthen the Maharashtra government’s SBM, by devising policies and plans for effective implementation of the mission in urban areas. It also offers capacity building and project monitoring support to help the government scale urban sanitation services in Maharashtra.
  • For example, C-WAS supported Maharashtra to develop frameworks for open defecation free (ODF), ODF+ and ODF++, for urban sanitation improvements in cities, which were later taken up by the Indian government in its National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) policy. (SBM ODF+ protocol focuses on sustaining community and public toilet usage by ensuring their functionality, cleanliness and maintenance. The SBM ODF++ focuses on achieving sanitation sustainability by addressing a complete sanitation value chain, including safe containment, processing and disposal of faecal sludge and septage.)
  • Maharashtra has already been declared ODF due to the collective efforts of C-WAS and other systems actors. Presently, C-WAS is working on targets for ODF++; that is, to manage and treat wastewater effectively. More than 60 cities in Maharashtra have been declared ODF++, under a statewide programme for universal access to faecal sludge treatment facilities and the state aspires to become universally ODF++ in 2020.
  • Felicitation by the President of India to the C-WAS team for its contribution to Swachh Maharashtra Mission
  • Recognition From ISC-FICCI as the “Best Non-Profit Engagement” in Sanitation

Inclusive and sustainable impact

  • Change needs to be equitable and inclusive to be sustainable. Through its very design, C-WAS offers its expertise largely for the benefit of small- and medium-sized cities, which often don’t receive the necessary attention. Also, through activities such as surveys for equity achievement, C-WAS collects insight on the sanitation needs of vulnerable communities and uses it to ensure the inclusive design and offering of sanitation facilities in urban India in addressing the needs of underserved geographies.
  • C-WAS assists urban local bodies to develop sanitation plans for small and medium towns in Maharashtra, using a complete value chain approach, and emphasizing technology integration, service outcomes, private sector participation and financing options to the most overlooked geographies in this underserved sector.
  • 60M Urban population across 384 cities in Maharashtra to achieve safely managed sanitation over three years, supported by C-WAS

Multiplier effect through replicable models and tools

  • C-WAS has been involved in research-led action on relatively nascent areas of work in the sector, such as financing sanitation, inclusion and equity in services and performance-based assessment/monitoring.
  • Unlike conventional research that focuses on building a body of knowledge, the research undertaken by C-WAS is actionable and ready for use through the creation of tools or replicable models.
  • For example, C-WAS developed SANIPLAN, a decision support tool that provides a structured approach to planning for urban sanitation, in response to local priorities. The tool also enables a detailed financial assessment of plan options. Other solutions developed by C-WAS for wastewater management, faecal sludge management and scheduled desludging have offered innovative approaches to the sector.
  • C-WAS’s work at the city level acts as a laboratory for design and implementation of innovative ideas. The lessons and findings are then transferred into policy and decision support documents at the state and national levels. C-WAS pilots and mainstreams models for improving urban sanitation at the level of a city or town. Once proven, these models can be adopted by other similar towns and cities, offering a multiplier on the cost of pioneering the solution.
  • For instance, through its work with local governments, C-WAS helped develop Wai and Sinnar cities of Maharashtra as model cities for urban sanitation. These cities have introduced a public-private partnership (PPP) based model for scheduled desludging backed by sanitation taxes. The models are now being scaled across Maharashtra to achieve sustainable and equitable sanitation.
  • 15+ Tools developed for urban sanitation
  • Wai & Sinnar developed as model cities in Maharashtra

Proactive participation in learning and thought leadership opportunities

  • The C-WAS actively engages in a host of thought leadership activities at the state, national and global level, using its database (PAS), IP (tools and products for government assistance), replicable city models, and experience of enabling the government to plan and implement effective urban sanitation services in India.
  • As a thought leader, C-WAS is a key partner of the NFSSM Alliance, advocating for better urban sanitation and faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) at the national level. C-WAS is also a member of various networks such as the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, International Water Association and Sanitation Capacity Building platform–National Institute of Urban Affairs. Through these networks, C-WAS is involved in strategising for policy implementation and capacity building of systems actors such as government functionaries.
  • C-WAS is on the board of an expert committee on Onsite Wastewater treatment and Faecal Sludge Management—formulated by the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO), under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • At the global level C-WAS staff works with the International Water Association and other international agencies to promote the performance assessment of water and sanitation in developing countries. C-WAS partnered in a UNESCO-IHE-led activity to develop a Pro-Poor Benchmarking of Water and Sanitation programmes.
  • As part of CEPT University, C-WAS passes on the lessons and findings from its field work to students at the urban planning department. C-WAS is actively engaged in academic activities through classes, lectures, student projects and post graduate and PhD theses. CEPT and C-WAS is also collaborating with UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, Holland for a sanitation specialisation course under the master’s programme for urban infrastructure. C-WAS also disseminates its findings in the public domain, for example, through conferences and reports.
  • 400 Knowledge products developed and published by C-WAS
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