Sanitation Project on Tea Plantation 
By Kumaraswamy Sivakumaran, WASH Ambassador
The sanitation facilities at a tea plantation in Sri Lanka were in pathetic shape. This challenging project constructed toilets with a septic system and hand washing facilities for 275 families.  
Sanitation Facilities for Tea Estate Workers in Sri Lanka
By Kumaraswamy Sivakumaran, WASH Ambassador
The tea estate is in a marginalized community in Sri Lanka. The workers were brought to the country in the 19th century from South India and their daily wage varies between US $4 to US $5. They live in small units known as “lines” and the sanitation facilities are pathetic.

To improve sanitation facilities, the Rotary Clubs in California, Colorado, and Connecticut, with the support of their Districts and The Rotary Foundation, embarked on a project in September 2022 to construct 275 toilets with septic tanks and hand washing stations, costing nearly US $132,000.
 
The project would provide basic sanitation facilities for 275 families, enhance hygiene, and improve attendance in schools. West Sacramento Rotary Club, California is the international sponsor and Kandy Rotary Club, Sri Lanka, is the host sponsor in Sri Lanka 

The project is nearly complete and there is scope for building another 75 toilets.
 
Unique Challenges
The challenges were many!

The challenge was that the tea estate workers did not own the units they were living in or the land adjoining their units. The area was mountainous and the space available was limited to build a toilet and a septic tank. Positioning the septic tank, the toilet, and then laying the sewage pipes from the toilet to the septic tank was challenging. The workers had to navigate narrow spaces.
 
This caused a predicament as to where we could build the toilets. We had to discuss with the estate management which owned the land and obtain permission to build the toilets adjoining the housing units (commonly known as lines). In one case a family sacrificed part of their living area to build the toilet.
 
Lessons Learned
Briefly the cooperation of the stakeholders in the area helped us with the project.

A local NGO that was familiar with the area, knew the key players in the area, such as the mayor, the Administrative Secretary of the District, and the Superintendent of the tea estate, and helped us execute the project.

The beneficiaries provided the labor to construct the septic tank and had to sacrifice one or two days of their wages because they could not go to work. The terrain is mountainous and construction materials had to be transported using three wheelers and carried manually at the site. Skilled labor and contractors who could engage in the project was limited.
 
The Public Health Inspector (PHI) visits the construction site to ensure that statutory requirements are met during the construction of the toilets. In addition, the PHI visits the housing units to ensure that the toilets are clean and maintained in a sanitary condition.
 
Status
In March 2023, seventy-five toilets were handed over to the beneficiaries.
 
In April 2024, an Art competition on “The environment and Hygiene” was conducted among the various schools to raise awareness among the children. Almost 13,800 students from thirty-six schools participated in the competition. An awareness program is being planned for the families.
 
From May to June 2024, about two hundred toilets will be handed over to the community.

We are planning on building another seventy-two toilets. Due to the financial crisis, the bank in Sri Lanka gave a higher interest rate for funds deposited. As the project funds were deposited during the fiscal crisis, they earned some interest, and we found that the interest was sufficient to build another seventy-two toilets in the project area. We have submitted a request to The Rotary Foundation seeking permission to build these additional toilets. We hope it will be approved.