Community-Led Total Sanitation

Published on 1 January 2006

This paper is intended to complement IDS Working Paper 257 (November 2005), by giving a short update on recent developments in the rapidly changing field of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in six countries in South and South East Asia. It highlights emerging trends, successes, challenges and lessons from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia and Nepal.

The information given herein is accurate to the best of our knowledge but does not claim to be comprehensive. For a description of the CLTS process and earlier developments please refer back to IDS Working Paper 257.

Since its emergence in early 2000, CLTS has been spreading slowly but surely in at least six different countries in Asia and three in Africa. While some agencies are still using pilot projects to try to learn more about the approach before adopting it in their own sanitation programmes, others have already institutionalised the no-subsidy CLTS approach and are observing the power and impact of local communities’ collective action in rapidly ensuring open defecation free status.

The innovations and local diversity in developing latrine models by using locally available, low-cost materials are astonishing and new and innovative models of implementation, monitoring, community reward and penalty schemes are constantly developing.

However, CLTS has come up against a number of obstacles which slow down or even prevent spread and scaling up. CLTS has challenged mindsets and practices which have been normal conventional wisdom. This is most marked with hardware subsidies based on the assumption that sanitation is expensive and many cannot or will not afford it.

CLTS is based on the premise that subsidies can slow and inhibit the spread of sanitation, and advocates expenditure not on hardware, but on training and supporting facilitators, with a light touch to support spread by community consultants. This approach turns philanthropic reflexes on their head: the poorest people are assisted not by outside subsidy, which is vulnerable to capture by local elites, but by those who are better off in their own community who recognise a common interest in stopping open defecation by everyone.


Petra Bongartz

Research Officer

Kamal Kar

Honorary Associate

Publication details

published by
Kar, K., and Bongartz, P.


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