research institute for compassionate economics

Bending the curve from business as usual

Written by Dean Spears on July 18th, 2014
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I’m just writing to flag a useful recent blog post by Eddy Perez of WSP: How and Why Countries are Changing to Reach Universal Access in Rural Sanitation by 2030. Eddy’s main examples are from other countries, but I think there are at least two important messages for those of us working on rural sanitation in India.

The first is the importance of evaluating programs and policies at scale. The challenges and constraints are importantly different for Uttar Pradesh and for a small, careful pilot. We do learn important social science from tightly controlled studies, but that can’t be enough. Luckily, I think this point is increasingly well understood: at the first day of yesterday’s IGC-ISI conference, for example, we saw several statewide or larger scale studies of programs and policies.

The second is the inadequacy of business as usual for ending open defecation. Sure, if we all keep doing what we’re doing open defecation will go away… in at least 50 years. Open defecation in India has been going down at one percentage point a year for a long, long time. If that continues, we have 53 years to wait. Ending open defecation won’t be easy, and is not a solved problem.