Lack of adequate sanitation facilities across India

Ques. “Besides being a health hazard the lack of adequate sanitation facilities across India also poses a serious threat to the safety of women”, while critically analysing the given statement describe the prevailing hardships arising due to lack of adequate sanitation facilities. Enumerate the steps taken by the government.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the lack of adequate toilet facilities has been a major health hazard in India while identified by the World Bank “More than 600 million people, over half of India’s population, defecate in the open”, which isone of the major contributors to malnutrition in India.

The prevailing hardships arising due to lack of adequate sanitation facilities:

  1. Highlighted by Amnesty International (India), The lack of toilets impacts the safety of women where girls are forced to practice open defecation, making them more vulnerable to violence.
  2. The World Health Organisation observes that polluted water is the root cause of 80 per cent diseases, a result of inadequate sanitation and sewage disposal methods.
  3. Shortfall of 43 per cent toilet access to general public.
  4. Only 30 per cent of the Indian population have access to safe and clean toilets.
  5. According to 2011 Census of India, Nearly 12 per cent of urban households resort to OD and another 8 per cent use public or shared toilet facilities. The situation is far worse in smaller cities (population below 100,000), with OD rates around 22 per cent.
  6. World Bank reported that children exposed to more faecal germs don’t grow as tall as children with less exposure.

The steps taken by the government are:

  1.  NIRMAL BHARAT – The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has formulated the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy for the period of 2012 to 2022. The main purpose of this strategy is to provide a framework to realize the vision of Nirmal Bharat, an environment that is clean and healthy.
  2. TOTAL SANITATION CAMPAIGN (TSC) – A nationwide network of Rural Sanitary Marts and Production Centres, established with government FUND, successfully encourages households to finance their own toilets while giving financial incentives to the underprivileged.
  3. NIRMAL GRAM PURASKAR – The main objectives of Nirmal Gram Puraskar are:

i)To bring sanitation to the forefront of social and political discourse for development in rural India.

ii)To develop open defecation free and clean villages that will act as models for others to emulate.

iii)To give incentives to PRIs to sustain the initiatives taken by them to eliminate the practice of open defecation from their respective geographical area by way of full sanitation coverage.

iv)To increase social mobilization in TSC implementation, by recognizing the catalytic role played by organizations in attaining universal sanitation coverage.

  1. INFORMATION, EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION (IEC) –Information, Education and Communication (IEC) is used to create awareness about hygiene and effect behavioural changes. The activities under this programme are area specific and involve all sections of the rural population. They are designed in such a manner that they encourage people to go for construction of latrines.
  2. WORLD TOILET DAY – In 2001, the World Toilet Organization(WTO) declared 19th November as a World Toilet Day(WTD). The WTO created the WTD to raise global awareness of the struggle 2.6 billion face every day without access to proper and clean sanitation. The WTD also highlights the health, emotional and psychological consequences the poor endures as a result of inadequate sanitation. The WTD’s popularity is gaining momentum, and in 2010 there were 51 events on sanitation facilities spanning 19 countries.

In-spite of such measures the lack of toilets poses a serious health hazard where States including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are among the worst offenders. Emphasising the relative importance, father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi had once said, “Sanitation is more important than Independence.”

A huge number of people even today relieve themselves in the open contaminating water bodies and other natural resources. This shows that people need to be educated on the importance of sanitation and its use in rural and urban areas alike. Inadequate sanitation facilities and lack of awareness often result in a number of health problems such as intestinal worms, most commonly the human roundworm and the human hookworms.

The Central and State governments have now increased activities and FUNDING to achieve the sanitation MDG (Millennium Development Goal) target. Water supply and sanitation is a State responsibility under the Constitution of India and following the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments, the States give the responsibility and powers to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to implement them.

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