Resolution 67/291 adopted by United General Assembly (UNGA) on 24 July 2013 has urged countries to approach the sanitation issue in a much broader context and to encompass all its aspects, including hygiene promotion, the provision of basic sanitation services, sewerage and wastewater treatment and reuse in the context of integrated water management.
The Resolution calls upon the organizations of the United Nations system and all other relevant stakeholders to encourage behavioural change, together with policies for increasing access to sanitation among the poor, complemented by a call to end open defecation as a practice that is extremely harmful to public health.
Non-Aligned Movement has recognised the importance of sanitation and has welcomed the UNGA Resolution 67/291. NAM Member States have reaffirmed their commitments towards improving sanitation. In this respect, NAM has highlighted the importance of education and activities to raise public awareness on the importance of access to sanitation for all. A number of NAM Member States have undertaken initiatives to improve the sanitation scenario within the country. One such prominent initiative is the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) which was launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October 2014. The campaign aims to achieve the vision of a ‘Clean India’ by 2nd October 2019. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has two sub missions – the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin/Rural) and the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).
The objectives of the Mission are: 1) To bring about an improvement in the general quality of life in the rural areas, by promoting cleanliness, hygiene and eliminating open defecation; 2) To accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas to achieve the vision of Swachh Bharat by 2nd October 2019; 3) To motivate communities to adopt sustainable sanitation practices and facilities through awareness creation and health education; 4) To encourage cost effective and appropriate technologies for ecologically safe and sustainable sanitation; 5) To develop, wherever required, community managed sanitation systems focusing on scientific Solid & Liquid Waste Management systems for overall cleanliness in the rural areas; and 6) To create significant positive impact on gender and promote social inclusion by improving sanitation especially in marginalized communities. As part of the Mission, States in India are enabled to develop an Implementation Framework that can utilise the provisions under the Mission and maximize the impact of the interventions. The Government of India complements the efforts of the State governments. The key elements of this strategy are:1) Augmenting the institutional capacity of districts for undertaking intensive behaviour change activities at the grassroots level; 2) Strengthening the capacities of implementing agencies to roll out the programme in a time-bound manner and to measure collective outcome; and 3) Incentivizing the performance of State level institutions to implement behavioural change activities in communities.
The mission has been a success story. As of August 2018, the mission has achieved 90% sanitation coverage in rural areas since its start in 2014. It may be mentioned here that in 2014, the sanitation coverage was 38.7%. Since the initiative in 2014, around 80 million toilets have been built. According to a progress report by World Health Organisation (WHO), 9 states and Union Territories were declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). 7.9 crore toilets were built, while 421 districts were declared ODF. Also, more than 4.9 lakh villages in the country were declared ODF. The WHO report further mentions that before the initiation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, unsafe sanitation caused 199 million cases of diarrhoea annually. The Mission has resulted in averting three lakhs of death cases caused by diarrhoea and protein-energy malnutrition over a period of four years since 2014. As many as 50 lakh individual household toilets (IHHT) have been constructed and another 7.62 lakh toilets are under construction under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban. Most of the beneficiaries of the IHHT and nearly 100 percent beneficiaries of community toilets are residents of slum area.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor