Saturday, 5 August 2017

Changing Lives in Informal Settlements

Sunder Nagri in Delhi is one of the largest resettlement colonies with 1000s of displaced urban residents. When the 50 or so initial households moved to Sunder Nagri, it was desolate and wild. Cut off from government services and infrastructure, residents were forced to wake up at 3:30 am and walk 2 to 3 kilometers to collect water for their cooking and washing needs. Diseases were rampant because of the lack of proper water and sanitation facilities. Many children died from jaundice, malaria and diarrhea and sickness became a part of their lives.

It was in 2009 that MHT began to organize community meetings at Sunder Nagri, through which the residents were educated about their rights to clean water, sanitation and better quality housing, and how they can access various government schemes for water and sanitation. Many of the women members were nervous about travelling alone to distant municipal offices, unsure of how to navigate complicated transport systems and respond to the questions from government officials. In order to solve it effectively, MHT organized a series of training sessions and arranged trips to local government offices, until the women gained the confidence to lead these visits themselves. Additionally, MHT also helped them obtain ration and identification cards, making them eligible for government infrastructure and housing schemes.

Later on, MHT also worked extensively to improve the water and sanitation conditions at Sunder Nagri. Recognizing an acute need for water connections, MHT began to offer loans for underground water pump and individual hand pumps. MHT also tackled the challenge of open defecation through disbursing loans for individual toilets. As a result, residents are now healthier, more productive and confident.

It was the availability of water that changed their lives significantly. One of the community members says, “We can now shower and wash our clothes and dishes whenever we want. We finally have free time. We don’t have to lug heavy buckets anymore or wake up at 3:30 am to fetch water."