Enhancing private sector engagement in WASH in India

Water for Women partners with Research Triangle Institute Global India (RTI) to facilitate and develop business and finance models to enhance private sector participation in WASH, and to increase access to WASH and create WASH livelihoods in India.


As outlined in the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, investment and action from both public and private sectors is required to meet the ambitious targets. As a cross-cutting goal that impacts all 16 other Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), SDG 6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – is fundamental.


India has a population of 1.39 billion, approximately 35% of which live in urban areas. While there has been a 15% national increase in access to at least basic sanitation services since 2015, less than 50% of the population have access to safely managed sanitation services [1].


As part of a multi-pronged approach, Water for Women’s project with RTI aims to catalyse private sector engagement in WASH in India.


RTI has identified Rajasthan as a key state to work in as it relies heavily on groundwater for drinking and irrigation, and currently has low levels of sewage treatment and recycling, with only around 15% and less than 5%[2] respectively. Rajasthan faces extremely high water security risk.


As part of a multi-pronged approach, Water for Women’s project with RTI aims to catalyse private sector engagement in WASH in India through RTI’s WASH Hub program in two states: Odisha and Rajasthan.


The WASH Hub program facilitates and develops both community-led business models and public-private engagement models. These blended finance approaches, which use public and civil society resources to spark community demand and private sector supply, are proving successful in both states.


The WASH Hub program delivery has also been extended to mobilise socially-inclusive WASH services in urban slums.


Building on RTI and UNICEF’s collaboration in support of India’s COVID-19 pandemic response, this partnership is now catalysing private sector engagement in WASH programs by building direct investment in innovative business models and philanthropic support for community WASH programs, including:

  • Sanitation-based livelihoods, with support provided for entrepreneurs to develop business models and financing plans.
  • Grey water and faecal sludge management, with support to entities to develop plans and business models for the treatment and reuse of wastewater.
  • WASH for schools, with encouragement for the private sector to meet the post-COVID-19 lockdown demand for infrastructure and provide training for teachers and students.


RTI is also working with the Government of Rajasthan (GoR) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) to pilot projects to establish wastewater recycling for industrial private sector reuse, with the aim of developing Rajasthan’s wastewater recycling market and enhancing private sector engagement in it. This will also help to lower water source pollution and reduce industries’ dependence on freshwater sources, which will strengthen the state’s water security.


Using a blended financing model, the public investment is assisting in identifying and convening prospective public and private entities to build partnerships and mobilise sewerage recycling projects. The partners are providing support to develop business plans for upgrades to existing sewage plants as well as new sewage plants. At least three pilot projects are in implementation, which are engaging industrial customers for the treated sewerage such as a city council and cement works providers.


The primary aim of the private sector engagement work in Odisha and Rajasthan is to improve water security through developing markets and businesses for WASH services including for households, in schools and for industrial use.


The RTI projects aim to:

  1. Mobilise, facilitate and replicate socially inclusive WASH initiatives in India’s urban slums, that is, WASH Hub delivery in Odisha and Rajasthan.
  2. Support ADB and GoR to develop blended finance models for sewerage water treatment and recycling plant pilot projects in Rajasthan.
  3. Support UNICEF in Odisha to enhance private sector engagement in its WASH programs, with a focus on supporting WASH-based livelihoods, a WASH in schools mainstreaming program, and grey water and faecal-sludge management industrial applications.


The WASH Hub aims to develop bankable business models for enhancing WASH access which are sustainable over time because of their commercial viability. 



RTI's blended finance and WASH series


Regions of Operation

  • Odisha
  • Rajasthan



  • This project has two target outcomes:

    1. Enhanced access to improved WASH services in Odisha and Rajasthan.
    2. Creation of WASH livelihoods in Odisha and Rajasthan.


    Multi-stakeholder partnerships between government, CSOs, international organisations and the private sector aim to increase understanding of the potential opportunities and to develop WASH-related markets. In this process, it aims to also foster job creation at various levels, including community and industry, to deliver WASH services.


[1] In 2020, 46% of the population of India were using safely managed sanitation services that are not shared with other premises and there had been a 15% increase in access to at least basic sanitation since 2015, according to the JMP report, Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2015-2020: Five years into the SDGs, available at: jmp-2021-wash-households_3.pdf (washdata.org) (pp 51 & 60).

[2] Sewerage infrastructure status as of 30 Jun’20 available at http:/ / www.sulabhenvis.nic.in/ Database/ STST_wastewater_2090.aspx

WfW Logo and Australian Aid logo
RTI Logo

The Australian aid program is investing in India over a five-year period to achieve this goal. Water for Women is proud to be partnering with RTI Global India and local project partners in India. Water for Women is also implementing another project in India with CFAR, called Mobilising, facilitating and replicating socially inclusive WASH initiatives in India’s urban slums.

*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.


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