Scaling up WASH projects

In the next five years the GoI is planning to build 100,000 check dams across India. And we have committed to undertake 10 per cent of the work — 10,000 check dams over six years. That is, 1,600 check dams a year. It is doable if all Rotary clubs come together. It will be 40 check dams for each of the 40 districts. The cost will be equivalent to only two global grants when you calculate at ₹300,000 a check dam. We have the experience and we can do it.”

With these words RIPE Shekhar Mehta encouraged around 200 delegates at a virtual WASH seminar conceptualised by PDG Ramesh Aggarwal, member, TRF WASH Major Gifts Initiative Committee.


In line with the government’s plan to provide tap water to every house in the next three years. “we have agreed to take it to at least 1,000 villages or 50,000 houses,” he added. Rejuvenation of water bodies, providing rainwater harvesting facilities and constructing public and household toilets are also part of Rotary’s WASH plans. “Our participation should be such that Rotary should be considered as one of the foremost players for WASH projects across the country and the world,” said the incoming RI president.

TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty gave an overview of TRF’s impact over the years and requested Rotarians to contribute generously to the Annual Fund “so that we do not dip into our World Fund reserves”. When Covid 19 struck the Foundation sanctioned a large number of global and disaster response grants. A substantial amount was used from the World Fund and, together with the downward trend in Annual Fund (AF) contribution over several years, it was a tremendous pressure on the World Fund reserves.

“The success of our GGs has been unmistakable but our AF has not kept pace.” From 868 grants worth $47 million approved in 2013–14 the number increased to 1,350 GGs worth $96 million in 2019–20. However AF contributions rose only by five per cent. With respect to India, this is even more striking — the GG amount increased from $6.3 million in 2013–14 to $28.4 million (almost 500 per cent) in 2019–20 whereas AF contribution is at the same level as in 2013–14. “A huge mismatch,” he said.

Our participation should be such that Rotary should be considered as one of the foremost players for WASH projects across the country and the world.
Shekhar Mehta, RI President Elect

In the first six months of this Rotary year TRF sanctioned 1,197 GGs for $87.5 million as against 634 grants worth $46.4 million for the same period in the previous year. “We are in a position where we cannot fund all the GGs that we receive. Based on the continued GG requests, the projected shortfall to fund is $17.6 million annually beginning 2021–22 Rotary year,” explained Vahanvaty and listed the Trustee decisions to address the financial pressure on World Fund to be incorporated from July 1, 2021.

  • The World Fund match for DDF transfers for PolioPlus is reduced from 100 percent to 50 percent. The Gates Foundation match however will remain the same at 2:1.
  • The World Fund match against DDF for GG is reduced from 100 per cent to 80 per cent.
  • Five percent of the current year Annual Fund SHARE contributions will be taken equally from the World Fund and DDF to fund operating expenses.
  • Districts have to fully use rolled-over DDF within five years. At the end of each Rotary year, DDF held in excess of five years will be applied at the district’s discretion or added to the World Fund. The first effect of this decision will commence from July 1, 2026.

Bhindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International that promotes environmental sanitation and waste management, shared ideas to tackle sanitation issues in our country. He explained about his ‘twin-pit-toilet’ technology where human waste is recycled into biogas and fertiliser. “This solves the issues of open defecation and manual scavenging.” Sulabh has set up thousands of public toilets (Sulabh Shauchalayas) across the country. The ‘Sulabh drinking water’ project converts arsenic-contaminated water into safe drinking water, and his Duckweed-based technology for waste water treatment is economic and environmental friendly, he said.

Erica Gwynn, Manager, WASH Area of Focus – TRF, congratulated India’s progress in the WinS Target Challenge as compared to other participating countries — Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Kenya. She said that India did well in ushering in behavioural change in communities. “Investing in not only things, but also people through effecting behaviour change, improving their skills, enhancing their knowledge around water and sanitation services and elevating their education through scholarship programmes, ensures better sustainability of a project. This is often forgotten when we do projects.” Sanitation and hygiene programmes has seen a boost worldwide, as also irrigation-related projects, “thanks to such projects being implemented in India,” she added.

To achieve an impact strengthening the environment around the system should be a priority. For better water resource management pollution and human activity around the precious resource should be addressed. “It will be like putting a bandage on the problem if you are thinking only about toilets and water treatment facilities,” Erica said. She stressed upon advocacy for the success and sustainability of any WASH system. “When you are planning a GG project or looking to engage larger partners like USAID, think about how you can leverage your relationship with the government and the communities that you work with because you will be that bridge to make a plan work.”

Nicolas Osbert, WASH Chief, UNICEF India; Suresh Redhu, Senior Vice President Eureka Forbes and RID 3110 DGN Pawan Agarwal, MD — Naini Group, Kashipur engaged in a panel discussion. RISAO’s TRF Manager Sanjay Parmar delivered vote of thanks.

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