On 2 October, the government of India declared the country open defecation-free (ODF). This is a significant milestone, which has addressed mindset, behavioural change and infrastructure gaps “Before the Flush”. But what happens “After the Flush”?
India must find ways to manage its faecal sludge to secure clean water sources to meet the needs of its burgeoning population of 1.37 billion, and facilitate their healthy, productive participation in the economy.
Safely managed sanitation is a focus of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is central to stunting reduction and early childhood survival, both identified by the World Bank’s Human Capital Index as critical for humans to develop their full potential. It is widely known that 4.5 billion people lacked access to safely managed sanitation in 2015, according to the Joint Monitoring Programme. Less well understood is that hundreds of millions more people in densely populated rural areas are exposed to significant health risk due to unsafely managed sanitation.
In contrast to urban areas, fecal sludge management (FSM) is not yet recognized as a priority for the rural sanitation sector – it is assumed to be less of an issue because rural areas are more sparsely populated. However, some densely populated areas fall under rural administrations, notably in deltas and on the periphery of rapidly growing rural areas. In these areas there is also a need to safely manage fecal waste. Many sanitation systems that, for lack of scrutiny, are assumed to be improved and safe, but due to lack of scrutiny they fail to safely manage fecal sludge.
A new World Bank report-supported by the Global Water Security and Sanitation Program (GWSP) – and six case studies identified specific causes of health risks in locations in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Egypt, India, and Vietnam. They include compromised construction of on-site sanitation solutions, incorrect technology choices, poorly developed FSM markets, predominantly manual emptying practices and indiscriminate dumping of sludge in the immediate environment. They found that environmental regulations and building codes do not address FSM effectively, and enforcement is often weak. Rural administrations typically lack the mandate and institutional capacity to provide and manage FSM services.
In the next five years, it is expected that more than 500 faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTPs) have to be designed, built and operated in India. However, there is a significant gap in understanding of the faecal sludge management opportunities and operations amongst practitioners such as contractors and operators.
To address this gap, the Centre for Advanced Sanitation Solutions (CASS) in partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BORDA and the CDD Society is organising a training course + exposure visit on faecal sludge management from 5-8 February 2019 in Bengaluru, India.
This study of Uttar Pradesh systematically measures relevant social norms and cultural schema persistent in rural villages. The study finds two pathways through which social norms inhibit latrine use: (i) beliefs/expectations that others do not use latrines or find open defecation unacceptable; and (ii) beliefs about ritual notions of purity that dissociate latrines from cleanliness.
The study finds a statistically significant positive relationship between latrine use and social norms. To confront these, the study piloted an information campaign to test the effectiveness of rebranding latrine use and promoting positive social norms, by making information about growing latrine use among latrine owners more salient.
The results show statistically significant improvements in open defecation practices across all treatment households, with latrine use scores in treatment villages increasing by up to 11 percent, relative to baseline. Large improvements were also observed in pro-latrine beliefs.
This suggests that low-cost information campaigns can effectively improve pro-latrine beliefs and practices, as well as shift perceptions of what others find acceptable vis-à-vis open defecation
Over 17 years of mission programming, (1994–2011) USAID’s Financial Institutions Reform and Expansion–Debt and Infrastructure (FIRE-D) activity partnered with India’s central, state, and municipal governments to provide technical assistance to 16 Indian states.
The focus of this three-phased activity changed over time, but the goal remained the same: to expand sustainable water and sanitation access to the poor while improving the ability of city and state governments to mobilize resources and increase their revenues.
Through implementer TCG International, FIRE-D piloted policy-related interventions to better plan, design, and finance urban infrastructure.
The most successful solutions were then expanded and incorporated into a Government of India (GoI) urban development scheme called the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
What We Did
This fourth in a series of independent ex-post evaluations of past USAID water and sanitation activities followed up on six states and cities seven years after FIRE-D ended to understand how urban water and sanitation services have changed and to what extent policies, practices, and financing mechanisms introduced through FIRE-D have been sustained.
Open defecation (OD), an age-old practice in India, impacts the health of individuals as well as their communities. To tackle the problem, the Government of India launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in 2014, aimed at making the country open-defecation free (ODF) by October 2019 by giving more attention to community-based approaches.
However, while such approaches have helped solve the sanitation riddle in many countries, curbing OD in India is much more complicated: the root of the problem is a combination of lack of sanitation infrastructure and deep-seated habits. So far, India’s sanitation policies have used the top-down approach, focusing on financial assistance for latrine construction.
While this is necessary, considering the social determinants at play, the emphasis must be on changing collective behaviour through participatory methods, a component that has been largely absent from past policies on sanitation.
Demand-driven approaches must be adopted, keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses and ensuring equity-focused actions through community-monitored, locally appropriate and culturally sensitive interventions.
Despite increasing focus by the government and programmes such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, unsafe sanitation work, loosely captured under the catch-all phrase manual scavenging, still exists in India. There are five million people employed in sanitation work of some sort in India with about two million of them working in ‘high risk’ conditions.
Here is the first article in a series which introduces the situation of sanitation workers in the country, their different personas, the challenges they face, and the solutions that are essential to improving this situation.
Credit: Dalberg Advisors
The last few years have been the golden age for sanitation in India. What started out as the Total Sanitation Campaign in the 1990s morphed into the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan under the UPA Government and then transformed into the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan with full gusto driven by the prime minister’s special attention.
This translated directly into increased budgets, a mission-mode implementation across the country and by official estimates, 80 million additional toilets getting constructed. Now, over 89% of the country’s population has access to a household toilet, compared to 40% in 2014.
Many people view toilets as impure and refrain from installing them within their household premises
The risks associated with open defecation in India are not just restricted to diseases. Rapes occur when women and young girls are on their way to fields to defecate at night. Photo: Mint
For most of us, going to the toilet is as simple and natural as breathing. However, for many it is a daily nightmare. About 2.3 billion people in the world do not have access to clean, safe and reliable toilets. They have to walk for miles every day to reach a safe spot where they can relieve themselves in the open. Inadequate sanitation is estimated to cause 280,000 deaths worldwide, annually.
In India, about 732 million people do not have access to proper toilets. As much as 90% of the river water is contaminated by faeces. People drink water from the same rivers, bathe and wash their clothes and utensils there, and even cook food with the contaminated water. Pathogens and worms from the faeces spread life-threatening diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, schistosomiasis and trachoma.
Toilets in households have only increased the drudgery of village women as they have to fetch water from faraway sources for toilet use, writes Amita Bhaduri, Programme Director of the Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development (SPWD), in an article posted on the Indian Water Portal.
Rajasthan is all geared up for the open defecation free (ODF) status well before the national deadline of October 2, 2019. According to the assistant engineer of the nagar parishad, Resha Singh, 4.75 lakh [475 thousand] toilets have been constructed since October 2, 2014 in Alwar district which is about to be declared ODF.
Paari, a 45-year-old woman of Ghevron ki dhaani village in the district got a toilet at her household under this toilet construction drive. She does not have to go far away to find a place for her sanitary needs anymore. She is, however, unhappy and exhausted from the numerous trips to the water source she has to make to get water in the toilet. Her feet are aching from treading the path filled with rocks and thorns without any footwear for protection.
Subhash Chandra Foundation, the philanthropic initiative of Rajya Sabha MP and Essel Group Chairman, Subhash Chandra has launched ‘SACH Impact’ Incubator, in partnership with LetsEndorse, to support early-stage social ventures aspiring to solve the problems of millions of Indians.
Two annual cohorts of resolute social entrepreneurs shall be constituted every year, with each one working on one of the 8 focal areas (Education, Healthcare, Clean Energy, Agriculture, Inclusion, Waste Management, Livelihood, WASH), aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The programme aims to equip them with market access for pilots, financial support to do so, necessary mentorship, knowledge networks & more, to take their solutions to the next level and prepare them to scale and serve the large Indian population.
Ventures with already developed testable versions of their innovative product/technology/software or those which have just begun conducting pilot tests on-the-ground and have the potential to make transformational impact on the society can apply online through this link: http://bit.ly/SachImpactbefore 25th June, 2018