Water For People

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India is the world’s largest democracy and is composed of 28 states and seven union territories. Separated from mainland Asia by the Himalayas, the country is bordered by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west, and the Indian Ocean to the south. India is a country of great cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity.

According to the most recent Joint Monitoring Program Report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, 92% of people have access to safe water. Access to sanitation is much lower, with only 35% of the population using improved sanitation facilities. Across the country, there is a wide disparity in access to safe water and sanitation among districts, and in the rural areas where Water For People–India works, access is significantly lower.

Water For People began working in India in 1996, with a small pilot project in West Bengal to help eliminate naturally occurring arsenic in water supplies. In 2005, Water For People established a full-fledged country program with an office in Kolkata, and by the end of 2010 had programming in several districts in West Bengal. Water For People–India recently relocated its head office to Delhi, and expanded work to urban areas and Sheohar, which is located in the state of Bihar.


Rural access to improved water:
Rural access to improved sanitation:
Hindi, English, Bengali, Telugu,Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, Sanskrit
Per capita income:
Life expectancy (M/F):
Under-five mortality rate:
165/1,000 live births

Source: World Health Organization


Water For People–India is focusing its efforts in Sagar and Pathar Pratima blocks in South 24 Parganas, and in the district of Sheohar. Sagar block, South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal is located in southeast West Bengal, Sagar is home to 322,206 people. This rural block consists mostly of subsistence farmers. Pathar Pratima block, South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal borders on Sagar; Pathar Pratima has 180,408 residents. Agriculture is the mainstay of the block’s economy. Sheohar district, Bihar, is located in northern India; Sheohar is home to 644,720 people. Agriculture is the main livelihood of the people in this remote and rural district.


Water For People–India believes long-lasting water and sanitation solutions can be achieved when key players—the private sector, civil society, and local government—are supported in a way that enables them to understand and act upon their areas of responsibility. Thus, Water For People–India convenes, partners, and builds the skills of district governments where programming is targeted, local Self-Help Groups (SHGs), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), and more than 10 local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Current Work

Water For People–India, with local partners, helped rehabilitate existing water points or construct new water points in over 95 communities. We also implemented water, sanitation, and hygiene education programming in 126 schools. To address sustainability challenges, Water For People–India organizes and trains water and sanitation (WATSAN) committees to operate and maintain water systems, to open a bank account, and to collect tariffs (which will be used to fund repairs and the eventual replacement of systems by users). In schools, WATSAN committees consist of students and teachers to help oversee the operation and maintenance of facilities constructed. Water For People–India also continues to promote its Jalabandhu program in West Bengal: this year we will expand the program into the district of Sheohar, where some 100 Jalabandhu will be trained. In addition, Water For People–India continues to develop sanitation businesses: increasing access to sanitation loan financing, and improving access to and affordability of quality toilets.

View Current Progress


It is estimated that 50,000 rural water points in India are broken and unused. Water For People–India is working to solve this problem and create long-lasting water solutions through a mobile mechanics program that trains local mechanics to provide regular maintenance and timely repair of water systems for a fee paid by communities. This program known as Jalabandhu (“Friends of Water”) provides training to entrepreneurs on maintaining and repairing various hand pumps, and connects the Jalabandhu to communities. Many are now independent businesses earning their income solely from communities.

Water For People–India is promoting sustainable sanitation in West Bengal, Sheohar, and Bihar, through different mechanisms. In West Bengal, Water For People–India continues to promote its zero-subsidy sanitation loan program, whereby households are given access to loans so that they can purchase toilets that meet their individual needs. The sanitation loan program is designed to complement the national government’s Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), a national program to reduce open defecation and help households access sanitation facilities.

Water For People–India empowers girl students to help design new water and sanitation facilities in secondary schools.

In Sheohar, Water For People–India is working with partners to stimulate demand for sanitation services at the household level, while working with a Business Development Service (BDS) provider known as Basix to promote the supply side of sanitation by supporting sanitation businesses.

Water For People–India is empowering the next generation of women in India by making girl students the designers of new water and sanitation facilities in secondary schools. Girls now actively participate in the design of new facilities, working closely with Water For People–India and its partners to construct water and sanitation systems that meet the needs of students and teachers.


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