BACKGROUND: Provision of safe drinking water is the main strategy to reduce the number of water-borne diseases. The Government of India has declared its commitment towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals and universal sanitation coverage in the country by the year 2022. Indian NGO Gram Vikas offers a solution to this task through its flagship WASH program MANTRA. It focuses on water and sanitation as an entry point for integrated village development. METHODS: The case study from Haradango village (Odisha state, India) investigates the effectiveness of MANTRA program by identifying key principles of this Gram Vikas' flagship programme and by analysing an impact of its implemenation and communication on public health of Haradango villagers. Based on field research key principles were identified (100 % inclusion, Gender equity, Social equity, Cost-sharing, Sustainability). RESULTS: Thanks to the application of the principles, reduction of nearly 80 % of water borne diseases was recorded and diarrhea incidence has been less than 2 %. CONCLUSIONS: Gram Vikas' community-driven development approach towards improvement of public health and sustainable rural development can be labeled as successful model for local, as well as national projects. Information, education and communication activities need to persist in order to overcome the cultural practice of open defecation within communities..