“An ideal village will be so constructed as to lend itself to perfect sanitation…The very first problem the village worker will solve is its sanitation,” (Mahatma Gandhi, Harijan, 1937; cited in (Malhotra, 2015)).

1.1Research Problem

Developing and the most populous countries India and China have a share of approximately one third of the world’s population. Limited by its landmass India is hugely overburdened with the population explosion. Waste management is a major challenge for the government. It is rather a common sight to see municipal waste bins overloaded to the maximum extent and its contents spread all over. Additionally, limitation of civic sense exacerbates the issue. Urban and rural areas alike see men urinating in public, overflowing sewage and open drains.(Tandon, 2012). This issue has been getting national attention for several decades. However, the sight is still common with no sight of declining.

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Urban residents often complain to local elected representatives regarding irregular garbage disposal near their houses. The lacklustre performance in solid waste management mainly contributes to the outbreak of malaria, dengue and chikungunaya during monsoon in India(TNN, 2017).


According to WHO, promotion of hygiene behaviour can be only be aided with increased sanitation coverage(Mudur, 2003). The gravity of the problem is shocking when rural areas are examined. Many Indian villages have ancestral houses. For centuries there were no toilets built in them. Women were habituated in using the fields and open spaces for relieving themselves. Often, getting up at dawn and leaving with fellow women of the village. Criminal offences like rapes have been committed in these situations. Hence open defecation has led to violence against women(Rao, 2014). This also aligns with the empirical evidence that lack of toilets at home can contribute to high risk of sexual violence.(Jadhav, et al. 2016). Since they stem from absence of adequate facilities in household, they are broadly included as a sanitation problem for this proposal. The initiative to build toilets in the villages and houses has been met with heavy opposition from the residents. Their arguments have bordered from cultural to religious significance(Biswas, 2012). This impedes the development efforts of the government to meet the Goal 7 of Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations in ensuring the environmental sustainability.


Another major challenge for the government is the disposing the volumes of waste generated from megacities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore In New Delhi there are three major landfills with all utilized to the maximum extent permissible. Alternative sites for disposing waste has led to demonstrations from the locals(Ghosal, 2017). The residents protest the foul smell, contamination of soil and groundwater. The vicinity of landfills is generally barren and agricultural land. The domestic goats, buffaloes and cows graze in these areas. Thus, the garbage also endangers the lives of livestock.

Overall, the problems of proper sanitation extend beyond waste generated in homes and offices. The multidimensional aspect affects everyone at some level.

1.2 Policy relevance

Spending for improved sanitation services is rewarding strategy that governments have come to realize. Firstly, hygiene interventions have shown evidence of decreased diarrhoea among children(Waddington et al. 2009). Such WASH interventions may also harm the nutritional status of these children(Thongkrajai et al. 1990). This in turn lowers the cognitive skill of these children as they grow and enter formative schooling(McCoy et al. 2015). Thus, sanitation is a problem which governments can tackle with investments as it gives positive returns for society. Economic costs of poor sanitations is costing countries large amounts that run into billions of dollars(Water and Sanitation Program, 2007). Thus, government expenditure in sanitation may come at the cost of other projects like infrastructure. There are positive externalities which can encourage government and communities alike to see the benefits of improved sanitation facilities. In Indian villages toilets given to households were used for other purposed including storing grains(Devarajan, 2014). This thesis can benefit the policymakers readopt their existing machinery to tackles the misuse of public built toilets and empower village residents with increased awareness on the benefits of sanitation infrastructure and proper garbage disposal.

1.3 Academic relevance

Learning process are vital in teaching sustainability. Effective disposal of waste adds to the conservation of resources used up in its management. Social learning outcomes are natural occurrences(Muro & Jeffrey, 2008). Action research has been found effective  in generating awareness for waste segregation in Brazil(Bernardo & Lima, 2017). These tend to be participatory action research and guidelines can be outlined for best practices for the problem. In one such study after the implementation of the action research the proposed models were continually used resulting in proper disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)(Paes et al. 2017). Action research can hence be useful method for public institution which are constrained by bureaucratic procedures where rules are contradictory in nature(Paes et al., 2017). Another study has found high willingness among member of community to be proactively engaged in activities for welfare(Lederer et al., 2015). Thus, there appears a gap in social learning approaches in waste management.

1.4 Research Question and sub questions

Considering the above problem, the thesis proposal would address the overarching research question–” To which extent can awareness building and added with experiential learning change negative behaviour”. Narrowing down the focus could be firstly, “Under which conditions this learning takes place?” and secondly, “What other behavioural changes can be influenced by increasing awareness”





2.  Theoretical Background

Keeping the research question under consideration people in general tend to dismiss roads and other common infrastructure as government property. This is reinforced when people pay taxes, further making them believe that it is a publicly financed property. This alienates them from the shared responsibility as citizens and puts the burden of welfare of services entirely on the government. The lack of ownership may also translate into apathy for such infrastructure. Proper disposal garbage of disposal is starts from the waste bins in households, however it can be considered normal to discard such civic sense. Resultantly the onus of waste segregation falls on the municipal workers. This increases their workload and could contribute to decrease in their productivity.

Action Research

Action research(AR) is a method proposed by Kurt Lewin in 1944. It is generally started to resolve an urgent problem. The method is generally led by individuals working in teams to build a community of practice to address issues. Data gathering is obtained through action alone to reach a solution. The result is innovative, dynamic and directly tied to the research question. AR dissolves the boundary between researcher and participants.

The theory found suitable in this aspect could be John Heron’s and Peter Reason’s cooperative enquiry(Heron & Reason, 1997). The idea being to research with people than conducting the research on them. This way the participant’s feel connected and empowered. The increased enthusiasm could get them more involved as co-researchers.

3. Data and Method

3.1 Data

            The data for the research is intended to be collected as responses to a questionnaire to residents in Kameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, India. These responses will then be analysed using qualitative research methods. The data will be secondary in nature. The reliability and standards of quality will be kept high.


3.2 Possible Methodological approach

              Action research method will be used for the thesis. The 4 stages of knowledge collection are propositional, practical, experiential and presentational knowing.

Ontological World View

I see it as constructivism, because I interpret creating awareness in people may bring behavioural response changes, and it is this social aspect under study.

Epistemological World View

I see it as Interpretivism, because awareness creates actions which change behaviour, slowly this form of learning may become a habit eliciting a positive effect.

Dependent Variable: Negative behaviour

Independent Variable: Experiential learning, awareness building

3.3           Data and methods limitations

In this section I am not certain on the type of data that can be available. The methodological approach needs more work. A major limitation could be the small sample of participants. It can be difficult to establish the external validity of the research.

3.4           Ethical considerations

Firstly, the questionnaire would pass through an appropriate ethics committee of the institution, also peer based horizontal checks can ensure their rigour. Secondly use of consent forms with declaration of anonymity will be fully explained to the participants.

3.5         Planned timeline and intended milestone





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