Depinder Kapur works for the National Institute of Urban Affairs


Depinder Kapur works for the National Institute of Urban Affairs, a Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs think tank in India. Depinder has been a WSSCC member since 2005 and was WSSCC National Coordinator in India until 2010.

Here, Depinder tells WSSCC about his motivations, achievements and hopes for the future.


In a nutshell, what do you do?

For the past six years, I’ve worked with National Institute of Urban Affairs, a think tank of the Ministry of Hosing and Urban Affairs in Delhi. I work on an urban sanitation capacity development project funded by Gates Foundation. See here for more details: 

What gets you out of bed every morning?

Water and sanitation is a critical area especially in South Asia and Africa. For this reason, we need to focus on the rights and entitlements of the most marginalised and demystify technology and learning. I therefore focus my attention and engagement on these critical areas where capacity development and research form a core of my work today.

When you retire, what will you be most proud of in terms of your sanitation and hygiene work?

I will be happy to have contributed to the critique of understanding Behaviour Change in WASH, Capacity Development and Research in WASH and mentoring younger colleagues to carry on the work.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in WASH at the moment?

I think the most critical challenge is governance and water and sanitation. What I mean by this is securing a political commitment to water and sanitation, for its treatment and reuse. A lot of focus of international development is on softer, easier options. But getting a political - not administrative – commitment at the highest level on water, sanitation and climate change is vital. We need to be thinking about how manage this in next 5 years otherwise we’ll be in crisis. In fact, we already are.

What are the three biggest impacts COVID-19 has had on your sanitation and hygiene work?

It has had a huge negative impact.  Digital capacity building is now a priority, but this cannot replace face to face learning and teaching. There’s also a lot of uncertainly of funding and future work. People are having to work from home with little support, as organisations have not prepared for these conditions or considered the effect it will have on people to have to work in this manner.

When pandemic started, everyone was already looking at what the situation would be post/pandemic, as opposed to how to deal with it! In response, we created a framework on urban sanitation resilience response just for that reason – to talk about what is required. This framework identified three parameters:

  • timeliness of response, e.g. how long to restart the sanitation services,
  • appropriate of response, e.g. if the areas most needing services were getting them,
  • effectiveness of response, e.g. systems effectiveness and lessons to be learned from the medical sector.

There have been many missed opportunities in learning around sanitation in pandemics. There is a role for organisations such as WSSCC and SuSanA here.

Speaking of SuSanA, how has it helped your work?  

The discussion forum allows us:

  • to connect, learn and share 
  • to contribute and grow professionally
  • to lead or be part of a thematic working group.

I am part of the change management taskforce for SuSanA as well as a capacity development working group. In these groups we have been looking at how SuSanA might evolve, and SuSanA can learn from WSSCC’s experiences of what did – and didn’t – work.

I’ve also been one of the voices talking about the need for decolonisation of WASH and how WASH knowledge is generated. As a sector we need to engage a lot more on this.

Tell us a good example of working with WSSCC and other WSSCC members in your country.

The learning and networking. I’ve forged some personal associations through the membership community that have continued to grow over the years. This is the true value of a network.

The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund has just been launched. In the next five years, what difference do you hope the fund will make in your country?

 If the SHF is allied to work with civil society only then it can make a difference.