Organization:        Gramalaya

Country:                India

Need:                    US$330 per toilet

Expected Results:   Up to 10,000 toilet facilities

Project Summary

Gramalaya has launched an initiative to bring improved sanitation and education systems to rural areas of Tamil Nadu in South India. Gramalaya seeks to provide 10,000 households with SMART toilets, which are designed to be socially, culturally, economically, and environmentally sound. This project would ease the plight of disadvantaged groups, particularly Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe people, currently without access to proper sanitation.


The Problem

2011 census data indicates that only 30.7% of rural households in India have access to toilets. The result of this is a high prevalence of open defecation, high child mortality due to poor sanitation, and an overall lack of dignity for women and girls in rural areas.

Many past endeavors have sought to fix this problem by constructing high volumes of toilets throughout India. Yet these efforts have failed: low-cost toilets were constructed with substandard, temporary superstructures that required yearly maintenance, and these flaws led them to be rapidly dysfunctional or otherwise abandoned by local communities. Thus, there is a need not simply for a large number of toilets to be constructed, but for long-term sustainable sanitation facilities that suit the local context.

India's rural sanitation scheme, which was devised in 1986 and restructured in 2012 as the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), has acknowledged that its goal is not only universal toilet access by 2022 but also the provision of privacy, dignity, and health education to all communities in India.


The Solution

Gramalaya has set out to address the challenge of providing hygiene education as well as high-quality toilet facilities to rural communities throughout the 32 districts of Tamil Nadu in South India.

SMART toilets are the latest concept introduced by Gramalaya, an organization that has been working in the field of rural development since its establishment in 1987. The acronym describes toilets that are Safe and sustainable, Maintainable, Affordable, Recyclable, and Technically Perfect.

These facilities must meet explicit standards that have been lacking in past efforts to construct toilets. These standards include features such as hand washing facilities, lighting provisions, proper ventilation, and twin pit toilets for sustainable use, all aimed at developing long-term and locally appropriate washrooms. Gramalaya will provide masons with training on toilet technology so that the facilities are built to par and its staff will provide ground-level technical support during the construction of individual toilets.

School children and adolescent girls will be provided lessons on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), giving them a foundation for improved sanitation practices over time. Mixed-gender committees of local volunteers called AWASH (Association for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) are established in each community to facilitate local ownership of the project after construction has been completed. Gramalaya staff members conduct field visits and consult with AWASH committees to assess the measurable outcomes of this project.

Gramayala will focus on providing sanitation facilities to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities and will also give priority to those who have been excluded from receiving government subsidies to construct toilets in remote villages. This way, its beneficiaries will be those people enduring the most adversity in the region.

The Bottom Line

For only US$ 330 per toilet unit, this initiative will provide sustainable sanitation facilities and hygiene education to rural communities in Tamil Nadu. Gramalaya aims to cover 10,000 households, thereby impacting the lives of 50,000 rural people in South India.

Individuals are encouraged to contribute any range of funds to this cause, as the more money collected the more facilities can be constructed.

How to Give:

To know more about how you can help fund this project, please visit its donation page.

If you would like any additional information, please email Jason Raby at

About Gramalaya

Gramalaya is a non-profit NGO established in 1987 in the Tiruchirappalli District of Tamil Nadu. It has consistently focused its efforts on integrated development strategies for rural communities in South India, with particular commitment to water, sanitation, and health and hygiene education. Gramalaya works to foster a gender-equitable atmosphere and promotes the empowerment of rural, urban, and tribal women. It is overseen by several factions of the Indian government including the FCRA Department and the Directorate of Rural Development and Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Tamil Nadu.