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Alex Scott, Scottish Water representative on the WaterAid Supporters Trip to India 2013Alex Scott

In December 2012 Alex Scott, Programme Manager was selected as the Scottish Water representative on the annual WaterAid trip. He joined representatives from other water companies across the UK on a trip to India to see how money raised in the UK is used to transform lives by providing clean drinking water and sanitation.





22nd March Photo Gallery

  • Man in village
  • Little girl washing her hands
  • Group of boys in village
  • Village gathering
  • Map of village water facilities

WaterAid Picture Gallery 12th March 2013


  • WaterAid Wall
  • WaterAid Rep and schoolchildren
  • Women in village
  • WaterAid Map
  • Village Toilet

6th March 2013


  • Schoolchildren cheer
  • Alex at school
  • Classroom demonstration
  • Man at well
  • Village kids

More than taps and toilets

Having been back from India for more than a week now I have had chance to reflect on my experiences, the people I met, the things I learnt and the work that WaterAid does.

The over-riding thought from all of this was that the work that WaterAid does has far wider benefits than I had previously imagined. Because of WaterAid the lives of more and more people in the world’s poorest communities are being transformed. Clean water is being provided, toilets are being constructed, and hygiene is being improved. This means that people are becoming ill less frequently and enjoying a better standard of living having more time to spend together as families, more time to tend to crops, more time to invest in education. It means that the sad fact that 2000 children die every day due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, will become a thing of the past.

In India I saw more that this though. I saw villages that had the greatest pride in what they had achieved, that had become stronger because of what they had done together. I saw women no longer fearful for their safety each time they needed the toilet. I saw children that had time for an education and embracing it with every bone in their bodies. I saw fathers so passionate about the benefits that they were visiting neighbouring villages to tell their stories and help other communities achieve what their village had achieved. I saw children empowered and driving the change in their communities. I saw village committees hungry for the next challenge; a metalled road to the village, a new school building, electricity connections. I saw WaterAid staff leading the government, keeping water, sanitation and hygiene high on the political agenda, and showing how the right solution can provide a permanent benefit. Above all, I saw that the provision of clean water, sanitation and hygiene is just the start . . .


Pictures below: 1. Babita, 30, and her husband, Kamal, 36; 2. Malti, Babita and one of their neighbours 3. WaterAid wall in Arjun Nagar 4. Pramila, Sajbunisha, and Ghita who I met at Arjun Nagar and who told me how improved there life is since they were empowered to make the changes they needed; 5. Adam, the cameraman heading to film the open defecation site

  • Kamal and Babita
  • Malti, Babita and one of their neighbours
  • Wateraid Wall
  • Pramila, Sajbunisha, and Ghita who I met at Arjun Nagar and who told me how
  • Adam, the cameraman heading to film the open defecation site

22nd February 2013


The slums, part 2

Yesterday afternoon we visited another slum called Arjun Nagar. Here, WaterAid and its partner Aarambh (which translates as “Beginnings”) have been involved since 2008. At that time there was one borehole which pumped water for 2 hours a day. In the summer months the ground water dried up, which meant that the residents of the slum had to walk 2kms to another pump to get water.

The women would therefore be carrying the 20kgs of water for that distance back to their homes. Of about 400 households only 180 had toilets, meaning that many of the slums residents had no choice but to defecate in the open, which then presented further related health problems.

WaterAid and Aarambh  worked with the residents of the slum, informing them of the choices they had, what could be done and how to do it. The residents formed a committee which they formally registered with Bhopal Municipal Corporation. WaterAid and Aarambh arranged for the committee members to be trained in hygiene, accounting, right of access to information and committee administration. This meant that the women had the skills, know how and connections to begin making improvements in their communities, and they have achieved so much since 2008. They now have a piped water supply with taps outside every house, they have a toilet in every home, they have the ability to maintain the infrastructure they have established, and they have a committee to drive forward future improvements. More than that though, they live healthy lives with opportunity and a future for their children.

Arjun Nagar shows that the harsh and cruel reality of slums like Shiv Nagar can be overcome, and shows how the work WaterAid does is so vital in lifting people out of water, sanitation and hygiene poverty.

The slums, part 1

Babita, 30, and her husband, Kamal, 36, (both pictured above) live in Shiv Nagar slum. They have lived there for 20 years  and have three sons, Akash, 14, Sahil, 10, and Krishna,7. The eldest lives with Babita’s mother and father elsewhere in the slum because of financial circumstances. Kamal doesn’t have a permanent job but goes out each day to find daily work (sweeping, etc). Babita takes care of household chores, one of which is collecting water, but also tries to find daily work.

This all sounds very matter of fact, but for Babita and other women like her, life in the slum is harsh and cruel. Open defecation is practiced widely and people use the road side approaching the slum. The women get up at about 4am to meet and go to the site they use together for toilet purposes. Personal safety is a major concern for them. In the last few months, we were told, three people had been murdered. We didn’t pry further given the sensitive nature of the discussion but the implication was that the victims were women and they had been sexually attacked. The women also spoke of other rapes which occur with unsettling frequency, and sadly, child abuse in open defecation areas is not uncommon.

Aside from the issues of personal safety, the lack of hygiene gives rise to regular illness. The women talked about feeling unwell every couple of weeks for two or three days at a time. They cannot afford to stop working so they continue to work where ever the work is available.

Additionally, due to the absence of any toilets the women also need to manage their menstrual hygiene in the very unsanitary conditions of the open defecation area.

The water they get comes from a borehole which is pumped for 2 hours a day at a standpipe shared by 40 homes. During that time the women collect as much water as is possible which is about 4 cans each (40 litres) but in reality they need 12 cans. They sparingly use the water they do have but it means that washing is not possible everyday.

During the summer months the water table is lower and therefore the water pumped is red in colour and they get ill more frequently. The relentlessly harsh reality of life in the slums makes me realise how fortunate we are in the UK to have access to safe, clean drinking water, and sanitation.


  • Depik Mewada
  • Alex Digging a compost pit
  • Sophie, Rackesh, and James about to install the door to the toilet
  • James and Sophie laying bricks for the toilet
  • Alex sketches how the compost toilets work
Pictures: 1 Depik Mewada (Education Minister for Padli School), 2. Alex digging a compost pit 3. Sophie, Rackesh (the mason) and James about to install the door to the toilet 4. James and Sophie laying bricks for the toilet 5. Alex's sketch of how the compost toilets work

21st February

We must become the change we want to see. Mahatma Gandhi

This morning we visited a village called Amrod. Until recently the villagers didn’t have toilets so they would walk into the fields to defecate in the open. However, in September last year the village started a project to build compost toilets, one for each of the 84 households. So far they have completed 75 toilets and they aim to have completed their target of 84 by next month. We talked with the villagers about why they had decided to build the toilets and they spoke of finding out that they wouldn’t be as expensive as they had thought and the improvement in hygiene. However, as things unfolded we found out that, in fact, a young woman from the village had been attacked in the fields and this was the catalysing event that really changed the attitude of the villagers. Sexual assault and rape are sadly far too frequent and women are fearful of practicing open defecation but often have no other choice.

A poster in the school advocating good hygiene practice

Provision of sanitation has obvious health benefits, yet here is another example of how the work WaterAid does can really make a difference to people’s lives.

In the afternoon, we visited a school in a village called Padli. Like Amrod, open defecation was practiced widely and frequently around the school, but because of the attitudes and temerity of the school children the community is transformed. The school children were given whistles which they blew when they saw someone defecating in the open. The embarrassment this caused drove the community to build latrines. In just 3 months they had a gone from zero sanitation coverage to 98% sanitation coverage. The children in the school have also set up committees to ensure the on going adherence to hygienic practices, and promotion of their message within their own families and with other communities. The children were an inspiration, uplifting and an example of what can be done if people are empowered.

I left the village thinking that I would not be able to describe the experience, and still I don’t think I can, so I’ll be getting photos to post here instead, trusting that a picture speaks a thousand words.

Picture right: A poster in the school advocating good hygiene practice

20th February

We have now moved from Gwalior to Bhopal. On the train today (whilst enjoying my Meals On Wheels for lunch)  I read up on the Bhopal Gas Disaster. I was only 4 years old when it happened so have no previous knowledge of the tragedy. There is copious literature available in books and on the internet so I won’t discuss it in any detail here, except to say that I was surprised to learn that the legacy of the practices at the chemical plant are still affecting people, and  ground water contamination remains an issue. WaterAid is not involved with this problem, but thought it would be interesting to mention as part of Bhopal’s history.

This evening we met representatives from partners of WaterAid in India, UNICEF and the state government. Prior to this trip I had a one dimensional view of WaterAid’s work in India, however, WaterAid’s work is now morphing, and discussions this evening really emphasised that. It is now investing more time influencing government bodies (mostly at a state level). WaterAid has a track record of success and uses this to leverage further support, focus and funding from the state government. It is now using its expertise to develop plans for communities to gain intervention, to keep the issue of water, sanitation and hygiene poverty on the political agenda, and to articulate the benefits to the communities in need. The resources for the improvement works are mainly supplied by the government and local communities, but thanks to tried and tested models developed by WaterAid (and its partners) the improvements are sustainable and have a permanent benefit. Via this route, money donated to WaterAid is now having an impact greater than ever before!

Meals on wheels

Meals On Wheels: lunch on the train to Bhopal

A small rubbish dump next the railway approaching Bhopal

A small rubbish dump next the railway approaching Bhopal

19th February 2013

Today we visited two villages, Jonhar and Kamhar.

In Jonhar, a preintervention village, I met a young girl Krishna, 12, and a lady, Indra. Krishna collects water for her family and their livestock from the well each day, five times in the morning before school at around 8 o’clock, and four times after school.

She said her neck hurts from carrying the water which isn’t surprising given that she carries 10kgs at a time. In the wet season when it rains the mud and stagnant water around the well is knee deep. The villagers do not own much of their own land so their rubbish is put in a pit which is near the well and presents a contamination risk, especially in the wet season. They know about the risk, and that it will probably make them ill, but at the moment they have no choice.

Indra showed us her home and talked to us about her daily life. As collecting water is considered a woman's job she too collects water for her family, she has a husband, a son and two daughters. She told us that the water makes them ill frequently, sometimes for weeks at a time, even months, and is worst in the wet season.

Talking to Krishna and Indra, they seem to accept illness just as a part of life, something that they live with. When I asked them how they thought a hand pumped water supply might help them they talked about having more time available and being able to wash more. They seem to focus on the convenience it will offer and are indifferent to the health benefits.

In Kamhar, a post intervention village, I spoke with a group of men and asked them if they could give a message to other villages that are in the same position now as they were eight years ago, what would that message be. They told me via a translator, “we would tell them that we never believed the benefits before we started making improvements but now we infrequently get ill and live healthier lives”.
Matthew, the WaterAid programme coordinator in India, later told me that they take people from the postintervention villages to the preintervention villages. It is fantastic that preintervention communities can ‘hear it from the horses mouth’. I’m beginning to realise that changing villager’s attitudes to clean water, hygiene and sanitation is half the battle, but ultimately that is also why WaterAid projects are sustainable and deliver a lasting change for future generations to come.

18th February 2013

Today we visited two villages, Nayagaon and Mahdevpura.

The first, Nayagaon, was preintervention. We received a very warm welcome, being painted with tilaks (bindis) and decorated with garlands, whilst drummers played and the men danced. I met Siva, 32, and her family. She lives with her husband, Ramniwas, 37, and her son Prashand, 4, as well as her husband's four brothers (three married and one with a daughter) and his parents, all in two small, single room, stone buildings. The village they live in is made up of about seventy families and they are considered a tribal community since they gain their living from the forest. They live on a barren and rocky plain so their income comes predominantly from the sale of firewood as there is no other farming or harvesting opportunity. Ramniwas told us he gathers wood in the forest which was about 15km away. Siva and her sister in laws collect water three times a day from a spring about 500m from the village which is little more than a puddle and is shared with animals. It usually dries up in the summer forcing them to travel 3km to get water from another location. Three previous boreholes have been drilled by the Indian and state governments but quickly dried up. WaterAid is planning to drill a new borehole with local partner, Dardhi, having already drilled seven test boreholes as part of a ground survey. One location just outside the village has been identified as a suitable and sustainable source of water and will be the location of the new hand pump. The village doesn’t have any toilets so they practice open defecation on the land surrounding the village. I asked if they would build toilets but it didn’t seem to mean much – the concept of a future with a safe and secure supply of water was only just comprehensible.

The second village, Mahdevpura, was such a contrast. They had made many improvements since beginning work with WaterAid in 2004, and became self sufficient in 2008. They continue to run their Youth Committee and their Village Water and Sanitation Committee with great effect. They have gone from a village which started with no hand pumps and no toilets to a village with 3 hand pumps and 38 toilets. The families showed us around their homes where they highlighted proudly that they have bathrooms, toilets, and an area for washing pots, under which they grew coriander so as not to waste any water! It seemed that WaterAid had gone beyond provision of clean water and sanitation too – the community seemed stronger because of the structures that had been established to manage the village’s hand pumps and toilets. They had even taken it upon themselves to set up a bank account so that each family could pay in 5 Rupees a day to pay for maintenance and further water and sanitation infrastructure.

In 2010, villages in the district suffered from an outbreak of Chikungunya but, of 108 villages, Mahdevpura was the only one not to have any cases at all.


  • Indira and Krishna
  • Indra’s sister-in-law collecting water approx 25kgs
  • Me with some of the children and men of Jonhar village
  • The Palace of Raja BirDeo on the way to the villages
  • A Check Dam near the village of Kamhar, the dam holds water in a lake just to the left of the picture. The water then filters naturally through the ground and maintains the water table so there is always water available to pump
1. Indra (left) and Krishna (right) 2. Indra’s sister-in-law collecting water (approx. 25kgs) 3. Alex with some of the children and men of Jonhar village 4. The Palace/Fort of Raja BirDeo on the way to the villages 5. A Check Dam near the village of Kamhar, the dam holds water in a lake just to the left of the picture. The water then filters naturally through the ground and maintains the water table so there is always water available to pump
  • Children in village
  • Children playing cricket on the approach to Gwalior train station
  • New Delhi Train Station
  • Left to right, Lisa, Christine and Adam from WaterAid in London on the train to Gwalior
  • The WaterAid offices in Delhi

Pictures: 1. Village schoolchildren, 2. Children playing cricket on the approach to Gwalior train station; 3. New Delhi Train Station; 4. Lisa, Christine and Adam from WaterAid in London on the train to Gwalior; 5. WaterAid office in Delhi;


17th February 2013

It’s been a long trip to get here but we finally made it to Gwalior by train, having landed in Delhi this morning. I’ve never been to India before and my first impressions were mixed.

On the one hand there is hussle and bussle, bright colours, kind smiles, excitement, great food, and signs ofprosperity. On the other, there are the smells, litter, poverty and a hygiene philosophy that doesn’t leave anything to the imagination; already I’ve witnessed numerous people going to the toilet in the open.

Obviously this is driven by circumstance with little alternative, so it’s going to be good to see the projects WaterAid is undertaking and how they bring about changes in communities, changing the circumstance, and ultimately giving people a better chance.
I think as I start the week and look forward to the first project visits tomorrow I have more questions than answers, and a dawning realisation that this week may be tougher than I was expecting.

15 February 2013

With all the jabs and medication now fully taken care of, all that remains is to get the packing done – thankfully I don’t need too much!

The itinerary is now firmed up. We'll be visiting projects around both Gwalior and Bhopal. Three days in each location. We'll be visiting the slums in both of the towns but also travelling out to more rural areas (Merena District and Datia District). We'll also be visiting some areas which are involved in the Child Rights campaign, and we’ve been told we will be visiting a school that WaterAid has been working with.

Child Rights is something which I’ve only recently become aware of. It stems from UN Convention 14 'The Rights of the Child', which explicitly refers to the right to safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation for all children as it is essential for their health and development. WaterAid has been working with Save The Children to merge their expertise in provision of water, hygiene and sanitation, with Save The Children’s expertise in children’s rights. Since 2009 WaterAid and Save The Children have been developing accountability mechanisms at local government and community level for adequate provision of water, sanitation and hygiene services and practices for children. I’ve heared about notice boards where the children can post notes to highlight failings, thus mobilising action by opprobrium of community leaders and adults. It’ll be interesting to see the results!

We have been told that when we visit the school there will be an opportunity to offer some gifts. I can only take so much in my luggage so if anyone would like contribute pens or pencils then please buy a box/packet, get in touch with me before Friday, and I’ll take them with me.

The Corporate Communications Team at Scottish Water  has been busy too, and got an article in the Scotsman at the weekend about the trip and highlighting the important work that WaterAid does. You can read The Scotsman article here.

12 February 2013

Since agreeing to go on the WaterAid annual supporters trip 2013, I’ve been involved in lots of planning activities, especially background reading about India. I’ve really began to get a sense that the journey was beginning.

I’ve been involved with WaterAid for about 7 years now through Scottish Water, I’m looking forward to meeting people in India and asking them lots of questions.  I’ve chatted to people who’ve been on the trip previously about what to pack, what preparations I need to make, as well as how to go about communicating the experience to others and chiefly help people understand the importance of the work that WaterAid does. In Scottish Water, people understand how important clean water and sanitation are; the challenge is to get others inspired to get involved.

I traveled to London for the briefing ahead of my trip to India's Madhya Pradesh region. Madhya Pradesh is in central India and it's generally very rural. It has a high proportion of the country's scheduled tribes and dalits (dalit translates as untouchables). It was great to meet the reps from the other water companies who will be my travel companions for the visit. I also met the WaterAid staff who will be traveling with us.

The day was really informative and I now have a clearer idea of what I will be experiencing. We went through the plan for collecting video and photos that will be used to engage more people in the work that WaterAid does, 2000 children die each day due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation. That’s a statistic that we shouldn't have to live with, and I’m hoping that I can play a part in engaging people with the work WaterAid does to transform lives.

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