“Latrine Doctrine”: Mumbai sanitation iceberg and the Clean India Mission

Would “building” toilets solve the issues surrounding insufficient sanitation infrastructure?

During our Water Governance module, we were privileged to get an opportunity to produce a ten minutes documentary for the 2019 Water Governance Documentary Festival to be screened to the public. Divided into six different groups, all students of this year’s MSc Water Management and Governance programme at IHE Delft took on the challenge to produce educational and visually entertaining work.

The winning team: (From left to right): Sue (May) Kyung Hwang; Botagoz Sharipova; Priyottam Sudhir Bhongale; Lecturer Tatiana Acevedo-Guerrero; Tim Nolden; Juanita Andrea Ayala Morales; and Nataliya Chemayeva

Our topic was “water infrastructure.” We wanted to find a way to present water sanitation infrastructure to a broader audience in a true and ethical way. “Latrine Doctrine” combines academic references and visual elements to complicate the issue of sanitation infrastructure in Mumbai, which is often misunderstood to be a problem that can be easily solved with a mere provision of toilets. In this documentary, we aimed to dig deeper into the underlying issues that must be tackled in order to provide a sustainable sanitation infrastructure. Beyond providing toilets, this entails ensuring proper and affordable maintenance, maintaining political will, and taking into account the ways in which gender inequalities intersect with sanitation. We also wanted to critically review the development policies in an unequal city like Mumbai, emphasizing the need to hear the voices of those who are easily left out from the decision making processes.

The deeper we researched and the more interviews we conducted, the messier the picture became. The occurring challenges on sanitation in Mumbai reflect the dynamics of a segregated city, with historic and deep rooted social inequalities and power imbalances around class, caste, and gender relations. We found out that sanitation is much more than just infrastructure; it is a story of many voices, dignity, and citizenship.

Although all of our classmates were working days and nights to produce the best outcomes in only six weeks, we really enjoyed working together to develop ideas and produce one short documentary as a group. Through active research, informative and interactive interviews, and frequent discussions on the use of different tools and sources for the video, we experienced a very novel learning process, which would not have been possible in a “normal” written assignment. This was truly a unique experience and without a doubt, not only it enabled us to develop multiple skill-sets, it also prepared us to take a step forward in effectively delivering the information to the public.

To end, we would like to thank all those voices that shared their views and knowledge in Mumbai, the academics and experts we interviewed (Vijay Singhal, Sachin Aher, Claire Furlong, Kathleen O’Reilly, Deepa Joshi, Sulakshana Mahajan, Colin McFarlane) and finally, our patient and constructive instructors of  the module, Tatiana, Jeltsje, & Emily, as well as the festival “Let’s Talk About Water”, which invited us to a workshop on the power of film and gave us the opportunity to show the movie in the Filmhuis Lumen.

Thank you and we hope you will enjoy our documentary!

Priyo, Bota, May, Nataliya, Juanita, Tema & Tim

MSc students in Water Management and Governance 2018-20


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