Wall paintings to spread awareness about key hygiene messages and restored hand pump and platform in a Patna s...

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

Nagal Behen and her family decided to construct a toilet after they learned about the importance of safe sanit...

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

Blending local stone and structural reinforcement techniques, AKAH India designs affordable, comfortable, and ...


Community drinking water scheme stand-post. - Ajitpur, Paswan tola, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India.

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

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India | Habitat


AKDN agencies have helped build over 170,000 sanitation units in India

Audesh Kumar, an AKDN-trained mason constructing a toilet in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.⠀

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

Key to AKDN’s approach is community participation in improving habitat, to ensure the sustainability and ownership of the new infrastructure and its management. We support village development committees (VDCs) in rural areas to be representative of the community, including women and marginalised sections (a VDC must comprise at least 30 percent women). To ensure plans are aligned with the government, 15 percent of the committees are Panchayat (local government body) members as well.

In resource-poor and environmentally vulnerable areas prone to natural disasters and droughts, people and the environment are often trapped together in a downward spiral. This shows through low-income levels, lack of basic shelter and sanitation infrastructure, limited access to poor-quality health and education services, and insufficient access to clean drinking water. Through programmes focused on housing design and construction, village planning, management of natural hazards, sanitation and water supply, we seek to help communities live with dignity. We support the government with the implementation of their programmes focused on rural and urban settlements.

With the support of the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, Focus Humanitarian Assistance and DIPECHO, this earthquake resistant house – made of chemically treated bamboo for extra durability – was built as a demonstration for villagers so that they can proceed to build their own homes in the same fashion. Materials are made accessible and affordable to all 18 villages in Chitravad, Gujarat, India.

AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray


AKDN believes that “adequate shelter" means more than just a roof over one’s head. It should include access to basic urban services, environmental management and equitable access to land and credit.

In urban areas, we provide technical advice on design, construction and financing to cooperative housing units. Community involvement helps increase local capabilities in building and management. All AKDN agencies work together to ensure that these considerations are taken into account in rural areas, at the village level, in mapping and in planning activities. All projects are carefully evaluated for financial sustainability.

AKAH India works with communities on habitat improvement through a variety of interventions, from the planning and design phase through to construction and technical assistance for both housing and critical infrastructure. AKAH provides technical reviews of housing projects initiated by local promoters for communities. Here we offer technical advice and recommendations on architectural plans, structural designs, financial feasibility, legal matters, monitoring of construction work and post-project maintenance. AKAH also provides building designs with periodical supervision for construction. We have constructed safe housing for families in need in Vapi, Pune and Mumbai. For vulnerable existing housing and buildings, AKAH conducts rapid structural diagnosis and provides technical support for repair and retrofitting.

We facilitate improvements such as roof rainwater harvesting, improving water availability and building sanitation facilities. We also promote green building technologies, including cool roofs and solutions integrating trees and vegetation for urban cooling. For large urban housing complexes in Gujarat and Telangana we are implementing demonstration projects combining a GreenPro certified cool roof coating technology with vertical gardening and rooftop or terrace gardening. These promote awareness and uptake of these solutions to address urban heat island effects. We are also helping communities set up rooftop solar power systems, installing over 550 KW of solar capacity in the past three years. We are working on designs and approaches for greener, environmentally sensitive urban community living. Together with the Prince Aly Khan Hospital Charitable Trust, we have designed a green, energy- and water-efficient residential high-rise redevelopment project in South Mumbai, which has earned IFC EDGE Advanced green building pre-certification.

Climate change and severe weather conditions are overwhelming towns and cities across India. Ensuring that infrastructure, both new and existing, is resilient to climate and disaster risk requires better urban planning. Cities can be drivers of innovation for climate-proof development through efficient planning and green infrastructure.

We have developed an Urban Ecosystems Management Toolkit as a holistic framework to assess, monitor and develop plans to restore urban ecosystems. It guides practitioners to conduct ecosystem health assessments of cities and prepare holistic urban resilience plans which respond to contextual pressures. To promote practices for resilient urban ecosystem management, the toolkit identifies sustainable, nature-based solutions for different urban contexts to protect and restore urban ecosystems.

AKPBS priorities include the design and implementation of rural water and sanitation programmes.


Water and Sanitation


Water and sanitation problems debilitate and kill in large numbers, limiting economic growth, educational access and life opportunities. In India, water-borne diseases due to the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation remain the single largest contributor to under-five child mortality. According to recent estimates, about 1.5 million children under five die each year from water-borne diseases, primarily diarrhoea.

The country also loses over an estimated 200 million workdays annually due to these diseases. In western India, water scarcity is now the single biggest threat to livelihoods, as falling groundwater levels and shrinking rivers make less water available for agriculture and for domestic drinking purposes.

In rural areas women are spending increasing amounts of time and energy travelling long distances to get water. Studies have revealed that women in the drought-prone regions of Gujarat and the flood-affected areas of Uttar Pradesh walk on average six kilometres each day to fetch water.

Water quality is another issue. Near the coast, salinity ingress is another major impediment to the drinking water quality. Studies indicate that dental and skeletal fluorosis, kidney and gall bladder stones, gastro-intestinal problems and skin disease are common ailments that afflict the young and old alike. Women of reproductive age and children are particularly vulnerable.

The challenges of safe sanitation are also considerable in India. Currently, only 31 percent of people living in rural India are covered by safe sanitation facilities. With increased urbanisation, city infrastructures are not able to provide sanitation for poor urban dwellers. The lack of adequate toilet facilities affects in particular the health and security of women and girls. Lack of toilets is one of the biggest reasons for high school drop-out rates amongst girls.

Hygiene and Sanitation

In order to help the government address these challenges AKAH, AKF and AKRSP have been working with communities to facilitate the construction of safe sanitation facilities and support the adoption of improved hygiene behaviours.

AKDN agencies have cumulatively helped build over 170,000 sanitation units in India. Over 600 are in schools, with school sanitation committees teaching safe handwashing and menstrual hygiene management.

AKAH implemented a School Hygiene and Education programme in partnership with AKF and Reckitt Benckiser in 216 villages in Gujarat. This project sought to create a school environment that prioritises school sanitation and hygiene education. We built the capacity of government teachers and head teachers to implement this curriculum using appropriate and child-friendly teaching learning aids.

AKAH and AKF are implementing a COVID-19 prevention and awareness programme in 49 urban slums in partnership with UNICEF. We provide training, install handwashing stations and raise awareness through radio programmes that reach 10 million people.

Managing Water

We work with communities to promote water conservation and improve water security. Our Environmental Health Improvement Programme has impacted approximately 225,000 beneficiaries in Gujarat, through activities promoting the rejuvenation of defunct water systems as well as over 5,000 interventions in rainwater harvesting, replenishment and conservation across 200 communities.