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Exploring the meanings of “Sanitation Well-being” in Tha khlong, Thailand.
1  City Planning Commission, Kathmandu Metropolitan City


Achievement of sustainable goals are driven by the aim to secure access to sanitation and water services. OECD defined well-being indicators regarding sanitation, as the presence of toilet/bathroom inside the houses shared among a family. This drew on Sen’s Capability Approach, to evaluate sanitation well-being through people’s perception (users and emptiers) on: current sanitation practices, improvement and changes that these practices brought to their daily lives and their surrounding environment.

This research was carried out in the field of “Tha Klong Municipality of Thailand” which aimed to complicate the debates and assumption that sanitation and well-being are synonymous without contextualizing community and their aspect. It was carried out by doing in-depth observation and interview of sanitation practices and the aspect of well-being attached to them.

Firstly, the everyday life in terms of sanitation (access of infrastructure, cleanliness, maintenance, decision making and preferences), was documented. Secondly, empirical data showed that daily aspects such as decision making, freedom of choice and ability to choose around sanitation systems had a correlation. It also showed strong relation between the current accessibility and availability of sanitation infrastructure, and opportunities arising from the governmental acts, policies and regulations. Accessibility or availability of sanitation infrastructure was not just a matter of legal rights but was also the matter of power relations surrounding income and was consecutively affecting their sanitation well-being.

Thirdly, well-being for low income community is associated with uncertainty. The major problem faced by marginalised people were, the sense of uncertainty, the vulnerability to series of risk causing anxiety and stress. With these outcomes, the feelings of well-being were greatly influenced by the existing power relations within the community and different groups. People who survived under severe inequality such as migrant emptiers and renters have weak entitlement to welfare and rights. As a result, these people were constantly reminded of inferiority, lack of work, lack of respect causing shame, fear and anxiety.

To conclude, the level of well-being in the community was determined by the opportunities and freedom of choice with respect to sanitation. The interconnection of decision making processes and power relations played an immense role in the type of sanitation infrastructure used. Anxiety, odour, privacy, safety, health and comfort were few themes directly related to sanitation and well-being whereas residence insecurities led people more strained.

Keywords: sanitation; well-being; decision making; freedom of choice; power-relation; anxiety, fear; shame