Slum Networking – Transforming Slums and Transcending Poverty without Aid with an Innovative Water and Sanitation Paradigm.

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Slum Networking – Transforming Slums and Transcending Poverty without Aid with an Innovative Water and Sanitation Paradigm.

Organization type: 
for profit
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Slum Networking exploits the powerful correlation between slums and the riverine paths of cities to transform environment and infrastructure of distressed cities. Thus, slums are no longer liabilities but wonderful catalysts of urban change. It uses water and sanitation to alleviate poverty in a paradigm shift from ‘social paternalism’ to ‘business on hand’.

The improved infrastructure stimulates massive community investment in its own shelter, health and education, overcoming aid dependence with the hereto untapped latent resources of the ‘poor’, coupled with constructive partnerships with the government and the private sector.

This work has now transformed the lives of over half a million slum dwellers.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The United Nations website for the Millennium Development Goals Indicators shows that, based on tenure criteria, showing that 55.5% of urban India lives in slums totalling 158 million. A World Bank study in 2004 showed that more than a billion people worldwide have no access to an improved water source, and 2.5 billion do not have access to improved sanitation. These are the demons we are trying to address. Our objective is to mainstream the slum dwellers in urban India and the poor villagers, together constituting over half the national population, which have been bypassed by the conventional development process, as capital partners, clients and consumers of services and certainly not as "beneficiaries". Considering the vast population of India, we have yet a long way to go.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Slum Networking exploits the correlation between slums and the natural riverine paths of the city to improve the environment and provide high quality, gravity based, house-to-house water, sanitation, storm drainage, roads and landscaping at costs lower than the conventional ‘slum’ solutions such as public standposts and community latrines. It uses nature sensitive technical innovations to improve performance and reduce cost. The approach has three philosophical planks: 1. Use physical infrastructure, water and sanitation to alleviate poverty and improve health, literacy and incomes, cheaper and faster than any other means. 2. Get over the ‘poverty and aid syndrome’, meeting huge resources needs through self-reliant partnerships and the untapped latent wealth of the community. 3. Use innovative and nature sensitive solutions to bridge the gulf between costs and affordability. The implementation must also satisfy the following criteria: 1. There must be tangible and measurable results. The communities are weary of platitudes. 2. The approach must make business sense to attract capital and reduce aid dependency. 3. The community must be a capital partner to ensure its commitment to the project and the subsequent maintenance. If community invests, it is also an acid of the efficacy of the solutions. 4. There must be a huge multiplier on the initial outlay on infrastructure to leverage at least 10 fold investment in housing, health and education from community.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As a result of our work, over half a million people in India living in slums (and a smaller number in villages) have comprehensive physical infrastructure comprising house-to-house sanitation, water, roads, storm drainage, landscaping and streetlighting. Beyond the physical comforts, the larger impact on poverty alleviation is as follows: • Water and sanitation has had a dramatic knock-on impact on health, education, housing and, most importantly, the incomes of the poor, particularly that of women. • There is also a significant impact on other factors such as freeing of people’s time, improved social standing and safety • Communities have highlighted the benefits of individual services in the house interviews and group discussions. • Communities are able and willing to contribute to capital and maintenance costs for infrastructure. • There is a ‘multiplier effect’ of water and sanitation, the communities investing in shelter improvement to the tune of almost 10 to 20 times the initial state outlays on infrastructure. • There is an improvement in the Human Development and City Development Indices after the provision of services. Equally striking, the infant mortality has dropped from 6% to 1%, working days lost to illness reducing from 64 to 9 per year per person and medical expenses almost halving. The number of children attending school has jumped from 41% to 72%. The monthly expendable income has increased by 50%, the greatest rise being in female earnings.
About You
Himanshu Parikh Consulting Engineers
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Himanshu Parikh Consulting Engineers

Organization Phone


Organization Address

2 Sukhshanti, 10A Parnakunj, Nr. Ambawadi Circle, Ahmedabad 380006.

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

In 1987, walking through slums of Indore city, I noticed their proximity to streams and the river. Using this correlation, Slum Networking was first tried in Indore to provide high quality, individual water and environmental sanitation to its 450,000 slum dwellers. The project was, however, funded by aid and was implemented by the state authorities without the active partnership of the community. The result was that both the local authority and communities failed to take ownership of the infrastructure and its maintenance. However, the positive impact in Indore was the quantum leap in investments made by the slum-dwellers on improving their shelter from shacks to pucca houses and also on health and education. This investment was several times larger than the initial capital outlay and revealed a latent resource capacity of the so called “poor” to overcome aid dependency.

Learning from the shortcomings in Indore, the next step was to move towards greater self sufficiency and community control. In a project implemented in Ramdevnagar slum in Baroda city, the community, Municipal Corporation and UNICEF shared the project costs and Baroda Citizen’s Council, set up by local federation of industries, successfully implemented the project.

Subsequently, a pilot project in Sanjaynagar slum of Ahmedabad city went a step further by replacing external aid with contributions from local industry and the Municipal Corporation to match the resources of the slum dwellers. Taking over from our pilot, the city authorities and NGOs have now expanded to over 40 slums in the city.

Social Impact
How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

In an absence of appropriate legal and administrative framework to scale up, each one of our project is a challenge to set policy and governance precedents on various facets of development such as tenure, rules for private sector participation in essentially the state domain, interface with the local bodies, maintenance by the community or private sector, taxation mechanisms for the subsequent running costs and empowerment of the local communities.
It is a challenge to motivate the private sector partnership. Businesses are risk averse and do not readily buy the arguments of “enlightened self interest” and “bottom of pyramid markets”. A CEO of a multinational in India once said succinctly about sanitation that “shit doesn’t sell”!

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Our major goals in the coming years are:
1. To upscale infrastructure development from urban slums to villages where a majority of India still resides in very poor conditions. We have already made a start with some pilot villages in Andhra Pradesh and are now working actively to develop a model for bringing the entire rural population of Gujarat, comprising about 18,000 villages, into the development net as Advisors to Government of Gujarat.
2. To develop a bankable model and delivery structure for upscaling.

For each selection, please explain the financial and non-financial support from each

There are three main capital partners in the model, namely, the community, government and business. The role we play is that of conceptulising, giving technical support and helping put together the partnerships. NGOs, national/global development agencies and academia, where required, act as facilitators.

The community’s role is that of a client, consumer and a capital partner, not a “beneficiary”. It also subsequently manages local maintenance within the settlements.

The government partner channels its development budgets into the project. However, as much as the resources, its partnership helps to develop policy framework and address issues of tenure. In Indore and Mumbai the government partners were Development Authorities, in Baroda, Ahmedabad and Bhopal the Municipal Corporations and in the rural work it is the Gram Panchayat (village council) and State Rural Ministry.

Businesses, apart from funds, bring planning, implementation and management skills to the project. In Baroda this was done by United Way set up by the Federation of Baroda Industries. In Ahmedabad pilot slums, Arvind Mills, a city textile group, ran the project on behalf of the community and the municipality through its own NGO Sharda Trust, supported by Saath. The Vice President of Arvind Mill sees this as “enlightened self interest” and not philanthropy.

For research and evaluation, we use academic partners such as CEPT University, Ahmedabad and Cambridge University and their research students.

How do you plan to grow and/or diversify your base of support in the next three years?

We are constantly amazed that we have managed to reach such a large poor population with scanty resources by bringing together partnerships between community, governments and business. Imagine what can be done if the huge resources available with governments, business, international development agencies and bilateral aid are channeled into this development instead of being frittered away!

India has 100 million slum dwellers and half the 700 million rural population is poor. The aggregate national demand is thus 450 million persons. At rupees 2500 per person (1$=45rupees) for infrastructure development, the market size is $25 billion. The complementary demand for housing finance is even greater at about $100 billion. As such funding is beyond government budgets and aid, our objective in the coming years is to persuade reputable corporate houses into the development fray as a viable business proposition.

As important as the funding, we need to grow to a much larger and professional delivery structure for upscaling.

Please select your areas of intervention in the home improvement market

Financing, Design, Technology, Technical assistance, Property rights, Sanitation, Water, Infrastructure, Environment, Income generation, Urban development, Rural development, Citizen/community participation.

Is your innovation addressing barriers in the home improvement/progressive housing market? If so, please describe in detail your mechanisms of intervention

We are always on a lookout for opportunities of development in which the communities want a change and the local governments, businesses and facilitators are receptive. We first talk to each party at a time and then make joint presentations to them. We use slide presentations of concepts and past work to explain the possibilities and the mechanisms. There is no better persuasion than previous tangible achievements and we use that as reference for all parties to visit and be convinced first hand.

Once the development partnerships are formed, our role changes to conceptualizing the development, finding the technical solutions and then helping the partners to deal with many non-technical issues such as tenure, banking, taxation and governance. Here we use past precedents we have established and their documentations to realise any non-conventional mechanisms.

Are you currently collaborating with private companies, or have you partnered with private companies in the past? With which companies?

In Baroda slums the business partner was the Federation of Baroda Industries acting through its NGO United Way. In Ahmedabad pilot slums, Arvind Mills, a city textile group, ran the project on behalf of the community and the municipality through its own NGO Sharda Trust. In addition we have worked with Tatas on post-earthquake rural development in Gujarat and with Satyam Computers through their NGO Byrraju Foundation in the villages of Andhra Pradesh respectively.

Please describe in detail the nature of the partnership(s)

In all cases the private companies are capital partners and also in charge of implementation with the community and in association with the respective local governments. Our role is to identify and form partnerships, conceptualise the development, its mechanisms and eventually to provide the technical services for planning and design.

Select the unit(s) with which the partnership was formed

Foundation of the company.