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Project information

Urban Mobile Eco-sanitation Project: Chennai India

This initiative provides a pragmatic and ecological response to the issues of sanitation in inner-city slums, tackling immediate need and bypassing such issues as lack of infrastructure, sewage systems and water supplies, to provide free, toilet facilities directly to the people on the ground.

6 months

Charity information: Wherever the Need

Wherever the Need logo
  • Need


    Half of humanity now lives in cities and it is anticipated that within two decades nearly 60% of the world’s population will be urban dwellers. Urbanisation is most rapid in developing countries and the challenges this presents are well documented. Poor sanitation for inner-city slum dwellers is the norm rather than the exception, impacting human health and environmental safety. Water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea are prevalent, and women, girls and children are adversely affected.


    This project provides free, clean, safe sanitation through the use of mobile ecosan (composting) toilets, which can be introduced into the smallest streets of the busiest slums, offering a low maintenance, self-contained system for managing human waste. Using a social enterprise model, the project is sustained through the sale of the compost by-product, creating livelihoods through the employment of maintenance staff, and investing profits into rolling out the initiative to new neighbourhoods.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Provide free, clean and safe toilet facilities in inner-city slums in Chennai, India.


    » Identify areas of high priority need (congested locations that lack sanitation facilities and infrastructure) to site the mobile ecosan toilets.
    » Employ staff from within the local community to implement and maintain the project; up to 10 staff members are required per six sites.
    » Provide comprehensive training for staff in maintenance, health and safety, hygiene best-practise, monitoring and evaluation.
    » Supporting local enterprise through the design and construction of the mobile unit.

    What success will look like

    Success will be achieved when all ecosan toilet facilities are set up and used, with response being regularly monitored by staff on the ground.

    Aim 2

    Improve health and wellbeing through access to toilet facilities and improved hygiene practises.


    » Engage organisations, groups and people on the ground to be advocates, encouraging community involvement and ownership of the programme.
    » Through a programme of education, encourage use of the facilities and good health and hygiene practises, such as hand-washing.

    What success will look like

    Success will be achieved following localised behavioural change; for example, reduced incidents of open defecation and hygiene practises, such as hand-washing, becoming normalised.

    Aim 3

    Create a sustainable business model that provides livelihoods & benefits the local community.


    » Directly employ local people to manage the day-to-day running of the programme.
    » Identify markets for the sale of the compost by-product.

    What success will look like

    Success will be the regular income from the sale of organic, affordable compost to local farmers, reducing chemical fertiliser usage, and continued employment of local residents.

  • Impact


    Monitoring and evaluation are a key part of this project and baseline data will be established from which we can evaluate the impact of the project.

    Key long term success indicators will be:

    1. reduced incidents of poor sanitation/hygiene related illnesses at a localised level

    2. demand (recording number of visits and patterns of usage)

    3. replication of the programme across new neighbourhoods

    4. An established market for the compost by-product


    Lack of engagement is a key factor that could impact on the programme.

    Pilot projects strongly indicate that this will not be the case, however, if it transpires that a facility is not being used, the mobile units can be easily relocated.

    Issues and factors on the ground that may affect take-up will be considered, and conditions for positive impact will be identified so that the initiative can be successfully replicated in new locations.


    Donors will receive quarterly updates about their project, as well as a final monitoring and evaluation report of the problems encountered and resolved, successes and outcomes.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £59,789

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £18,750 Infrastructure Compost storage lease, vehicle purchase
      £30,348 Site Costs Building materials and construction
      £10,691 Outgoing/Salary Employment of maintenance staff/Admin
  • Background


    Chennai is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Located on the south east coast it has a population of over 7.5 million people and is considered to be one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with approximately 20% of its population living in slum conditions.

    Wherever the Need India operates out of nearby Pondicherry and Cuddalore and we are acutely aware of the real life stories behind the statistics and the issues affecting people in their daily lives.


    The direct beneficiaries will be local people living in the neighbourhoods where the mobile ecosan units are located; they will have free access to clean, safe toilets, separate male and female cubicles – giving women and children much-needed privacy – and hand-washing facilities. We estimate that one unit can potentially impact on the lives of 6,000 people. The project will also create livelihoods and benefit local farmers/agriculture through the availability of affordable, organic compost.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Wherever the Need specialises in ecosan toilets. Based on our knowledge and experience we recognised that this could be a useful tool in tackling the issues presented by inner-cities, providing a practical solution for the removal and treatment of large quantities of human waste, and the lack of sanitation infrastructure. A pilot project testing the concept has informed the design of the mobile facility, which is now ready to be introduced into the busy, inner-city streets of nearby Chennai.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Mr S. Paramasivan – Wherever The Need India Services

    Has expertise and knowledge of ecosan and has been instrumental in the development of the mobile unit.

    Shabnam Resources

    An organisation working with street children in Chennai; they will be integral to identifying areas of greatest need.


Cost per person for Sanitation for Life.

Having a toilet has made me feel human