Community toilet use in slums: willingness to pay and the role of informational and supply side constraints

Publication Details

3ie Funded Evaluation, DPW1.1105. A link to the completed study will appear here when available.

Alex Armand, Orazio Attanasio, Britta Augsburg, Bhartendu Trivedi, Antonella Bancalari
Institutional affiliations
University of Navarra, The Institute for Fiscal Studies, Morsel India
Grant-holding institution
The Institute for Fiscal Studies
South Asia
Water and Sanitation
None specified
Gender analysis
None specified
Gender analysis
Equity Focus
Gender, Poverty
Evaluation design
Randomised Control Trials (RCT)
Ongoing 3ie Funded Studies
3ie Funding Window
Development Priorities Window 1


The study explores the role that informational constraints and inadequate facilities play in driving the willingness to pay (WTP) for access to community toilets and their use in the context of Indian slums.


Shared public toilets will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be an important solution to improve sanitary conditions in slums, given numerous constraints to increasing access to private toilets and sewerage. However, even where public toilets are available, open defecation remains common behaviour among slum dwellers. One of the major reasons for this is the low willingness to pay (WTP) for sanitation and access to clean water.

While exploring some potential drivers behind the low WTP, this study will shed light on whether usage of public toilets is generally perceived to be too expensive, due to household financial constraints or for lack of information; or due to the dirtiness of the available infrastructure.

Research questions

  1. What is slum dwellers’ WTP for community toilet access?
  2. Can slum dwellers’ WTP for community toilets be affected by the provision of information about private and public benefits of reducing open defecation?
  3. Can slum dwellers’ WTP for community toilets be affected by promoting and ensuring cleanliness of public toilets?
  4. Are there complementarities between the provision of information and supply side improvements in terms of affecting WTP?
  5. Are slum dwellers that are able to use community toilets at the cost they are willing to pay changing their sanitation behaviour in the longer term?
  6. Does the provision of information and supply side improvements increase the sustainability of any behaviour change observed?


Intervention design

The study includes two complementary interventions that aim to improve the water and sanitation situation in slums by promoting the use of public shared toilets and thereby reducing open defecation. The first intervention targets the supply side through the improvement of community toilets, by addressing issues such as the lack of cleanliness and poor upkeep. The second intervention targets, in addition to the supply, also the demand side through improved sanitation literacy of the user, such as repeated information and reminders through text messages. 

Theory of change

It is assumed that open defecation has a significant impact on the water quality of slum dwellers in India. The theory of change suggests that the low WTP for sanitation and access to clean water is driven by both demand and supply sides factors. It further suggests that by supplying information about the link between poor sanitation and disease, and improving the experience of using community toilets by ensuring its cleanliness are major factors to promote the use of public toilets. A possible negative externality of increases in WTP for sanitation and access to clean water would be congestion, and possible difficulties in keeping improved standards due to higher usage.

Evaluation design

This study will use a cluster randomised design, where community toilet catchment areas will be randomly allocated to either the supply intervention or a combination of the supply and information interventions. The experimental design will have three treatment arms, consisting of slum dwellers exposed to: 1) supply improvements only; 2) supply improvements and information; and 3) no intervention. This study is implemented in the cities of Lucknow and Kanpur, that are comparable to many other cities in India and Southeast Asia.

Media coverage


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