Inner-City Sanitation model (ICS)

In 2010, Sanitation First started to work on a low-tech, innovative approach to provide toilets and sanitation services for slum residents. Slums have their own special sets of challenges including space restrictions, little or no water and no existing sewerage infrastructure. What we came up with has become known as our four-stage Inner City Sanitation model, utilising the specially designed GroSan toilet (see below). This system, where waste is contained at point of use and then collected for safe processing elsewhere, is known as Container Based Sanitation or CBS.


Since then we have installed 94 GroSans in Puducherry and Cuddalore, serving around 6,000 people. The transformation is truly inspiring, people feel better, have more dignity and confidence and are better off financially. The success of this programme is hugely motivating and Sanitation First want to bring these benefits to many more people by building more toilets in Puducherry and other parts of India.


  1. Reduced risk of diarrhoea
  2. Better health means more time in school so better future for the children
  3. Less sickness means less time off work so more income into the household
  4. Reduced expenditure on medicines and healthcare
  5. Women and girls are less likely to be attacked
  6. Removes the stigma of open defecation, which is undignified and shaming
  7. Provides employment for local people
  8. Environmentally sustainable, turning waste into compost
  9. Use only minimal water and designed to last for decades




Research has shown that people need education and motivation to adopt new hygiene habits and toilet use. In common with all of our toilet projects, we start by working alongside and educating the community about the benefits of personal hygiene and sanitation.

Once people understand that toilet use and good hygiene practices are linked to so many of their families’ problems, not just health, but time, money, dignity and personal safety, they embrace the idea of having a GroSan toilet. This early understanding is key to the success of the project.




The next stage is the build construction and installation of our specially designed GroSan toilets.

The GroSan, like all of our toilets, operates on the composting ecosan principle. Solids are safely held in containers, and urine is piped into tanks for collection. The compact size means that GroSans can fit into the tight, limited spaces in the overcrowded slums. The clever engineers at Sanitation First have designed specially built platforms that span the ‘canals’ (open sewers running through the slums) making use of otherwise dead space.





Sanitation First provides a cleaning and waste collection service to ensure that the GroSans remain in a good usable condition at all times.

These regular calls from the team also ensure that any problems either with either the toilets or the communities’ attitude towards them, are spotted early on and can be dealt with before they have a chance to escalate.




The waste is taken to the processing compound and transformed into a rich, soil improving compost – developed to enhance agricultural production.

Extensive research and development has led Sanitation First to develop an enriched compost formula known as GroComp. This is based on 40% of our collected material and 60% of other organic materials and has proven to be as effective as other organic fertilisers available in the Indian market.  Sales to local farmers have been steadily growing year on year as the word gets out that the compost not only enhances yields but also protects the plants in the face of a sever weather event.

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