This article reviews a project in Pune, India, where 400 community toilet blocks have been built through a partnership between municipal government, NGOs and community-based organisations. In 1999, the Municipal commissioner sought to greatly increase the scale of public toilet construction and to ensure that toilets more appropriate than those previously constructed by the municipality got built, by inviting local NGOs to make bids for toilet construction and maintenance. One of the NGOs that received contracts had long had a partnership with two people's organisations, the National Slum Dwellers Federation and Mahila Milan (a network of slum and pavement women's savings and credit groups). The three institutions had been working in Pune for five years prior to this, supporting savings and credit movement among women slum dwellers, which had included experiments with community toilets. One factor that constrained community participation was the municipal commissioner's desire to complete the programme while he was still in office. Despite this limitation, many of the inhabitants were involved in the design and construction of the toilets. The authors conclude that the project was made possible through a reconfiguration of the relationship between city government, NGOs and communities, with the government recognising the capacity of the community organisations to develop their own solutions. The project was unusual for India in its transparency and accountability, with weekly stakeholder meetings and constant communication between community leaders and government officials.
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International Institute for Environment and Development