Improving Sanitation in India: A Herculean Task [Part 3]

Posted on May 25, 2012 in Research, Specials

By Dr. Amrit Patel:

Continued from Part 2 of a 3 part series.

Sanitation machinery: Experiences suggest that no uniform design of a toilet should be forced on user-beneficiaries. The user of a toilet should be free to select design of his/her toilet. It is reported that Sulabh International has prepared 46 designs. They include designs of pour flush toilets meant for BPL families as well as for middle income groups (MIG) or higher income groups (HIG). BPL families can be provided toilet facilities free of cost whereas MIG and HIG can be extended subsidies. Banks can also consider them eligible for loan under priority sectors. In view of TSC being a program of national significance to promote clean defecation-free environment Government can consider interest-free bank loans to all beneficiaries to motivate them to have toilets in their houses.

The program requires house-to-house contacts and follow-up, which can best be done by NGOs and dedicated volunteers. The role of NGOs is very crucial in creating awareness and generating effective demand from rural households, planning and implementation of the program, follow-up etc. NGOs should have proven and demonstrated expertise and infrastructure. They need to be trained to implement the program. A comprehensive training program, inter alia, comprises requisite information, education, communication, implementation and follow-up etc.

Implementation of program will require significant efforts for social mobilization on a large scale which will include people belonging to various groups. Elected representatives at grass root level have a critical role.

In rural areas, public toilets are generally favoured near Panchayat offices, village markets, bus stations, community places etc. Public toilets should, preferably, be constructed by NGOs who can also be entrusted with the responsibility to maintain on a “Pay & Use Basis”.

Most schools in rural areas do not have toilets for children, consequent upon which boys and girls feel ashamed of and experience difficulties. This, also, increases drop-out rates particularly of girl students. It is necessary that within five years of the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17) every school should have toilet facilities. Individual donors, financial institutions, insurance companies, corporate houses, business community, private companies, NRIs etc. can consider to provide toilet facilities in schools to supplement Government efforts. The school administration and teachers have a role to teach students to keep toilets neat and clean and to monitor and ensure that students do so. Students would feel enlightened to accept responsibilities by turns to maintain the toilets clean under the close supervision of teachers and class representatives. Number of toilets must be adequate to match the strength of students.

Sewerage: In developed countries the standard practice for the sanitary disposal of human waste is sewerage. Sewerage was first introduced in London in 1850 followed by New York in 1860 and Kolkata in 1870. In India out of over 4800 towns/cities only 232 have the sewerage system and that too partially.  In India, according to Census 2011 only 32.7% urban Households and 2.2% rural Households have piped sewer facilities. Putting in place the effective sewerage system to address the problem of human waste management, treatment and disposal is extremely costly and requires exorbitant maintenance and operational costs. Besides, it requires skilled persons and good management for operation and maintenance. It requires huge quantity of water to clean human excreta. It may need building huge water storage and supply system to bring in water only to flush it down into an expensive sewerage system. The waste has to be properly treated and disposed of by designing the entire system scientifically otherwise it may end up polluting rivers and ponds. Even today most of our rivers are polluted due to untreated domestic sewage load from the cities. This has led to deterioration of groundwater aquifers and telling upon community health. The septic tank system is also expensive and requires a large volume of water for flushing. There is shortage of drinking water in almost all urban areas; hence water has to be conserved. Septic tank has other problems like periodic cleaning and disposal of sludge. Inadequate effluent disposal is a source of foul odour, mosquito breeding, and health hazards.

The septic tank system is also expensive and requires a large volume of water for flushing. There is shortage of drinking water in almost all urban areas; hence water has to be conserved. Septic tank has other problems like periodic cleaning and disposal of sludge. Inadequate effluent disposal is a source of foul odour, mosquito breeding, and health hazards.

Vision 2025: India, as an emerging economy and targeting double digit annual growth will have to resolve the problem of open defecation and providing toilet facilities with piped sewer system for disposal of human waste from the long-term perspective. Indeed neither the Government, nor local authorities or beneficiaries can bear the total capital costs and recurring operations and maintenance costs of sewerage system. For this purpose, Vision 2025 may need to be initiated focusing on sharing national and international experiences and information on best practices with developed countries; mobilizing financial resources from international financial institutions, viz. World Bank, Asian Development Bank etc.; harnessing technical expertise, technologies and equipment from reputed international professional agencies; formulating perspective plan to be implemented in phases to cover all cities and villages progressively in 15 years in a mission mode with public-private-partnership; training users and youth in all respects of maintenance and follow up, among many other methods.

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Vishakh

Cannot believe people themselves don’t demand for better sanitation..

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