Community toilet use in slums: willingness to pay and the role of informational and supply side constraints in Urban Uttar Pradesh
Contributors: PIs: Alex Armand (NCID), Britta Augsburg (IFS)
Financing: 3ie Development Priority Window awarded to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (London, UK)

While urbanization can bring benefits for economic, cultural and societal development, the rapid pace of urbanization that is experienced is creating enormous challenges. Especially cities in developing countries are struggling to keep pace with necessary infrastructure investment. One consequence is a phenomena referred to as “urbanization of poverty”. United Nations Water (2013) estimates that 40% of the world’s urban expansion is taking place in slums.

Particularly the water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure is stressed beyond current capacity. The link between inadequate sanitary conditions, fecal contamination and (child) mortality, stunting and other outcomes is already well established. Given that recent evidence suggests that poor sanitation is particularly threatening to early life health when coupled with high population density, efforts to improve sanitary conditions in slums is therefore of direct policy relevance.

It is generally accepted that shared community toilets will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be an important solution to improve sanitary conditions in slums, given numerous constraints to increasing access to private toilets and sewerage. However, even where public toilets are available, open defecation remains common behavior among slum dwellers.

The study will take place among slum dwellers in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India), where we will implement two complementary interventions. On one side, the supply of information about hygiene practices and about the risks associated with bad sanitation. On the other side, the improvement of the quality and hygiene of community toilets. We seek funding for the second. These interventions aim at reducing open defecation by promoting the use of CTs.

The study aims at understanding the effectiveness of interventions in improving slum dweller’s willingness to pay for community toilet access. This research will not only contribute to the understanding of drivers of poor sanitation, but will also inform on the financial viability of the different interventions. It will provide policy guidance on the design of public-private partnerships in provision of CTs. In particular the degree to which public financial support will – or will not - be needed in improving sanitation situations in urban areas.

Picture by: Aleksandr Zykov