India WASH Summit concludes with concrete recommendations for a clean India

New Delhi: The 3-day India WASH Summit hosted by WaterAid India and supported by the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation and the Ministry of Urban Development ended today on a high note. An event aimed at finding solutions for Government of India’s ambitious efforts to make India open defecation free by 2019 through the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the Summit concluded with the sharing of a concrete set of recommendations that span a number of themes including behavior, equity and inclusion, gender, water security, institutional transformation, capacity, technology, research, monitoring and convergence of nutrition, health and education.

Tom Palakudiyil, Head of South Asia Region, WaterAid, summarized the following key recommendations from the Summit:

  • Collective behavior change should be the focus of SBM
  • Sanitation is a basic human right and should be included within the broader horizon of other rights like right to food or right to education
  • Women are consumers, producer and managers and thus gender has to be central to the programming and implementation of SBM
  • Inter-sectionality of class, caste, gender need to be integrated in the analytics and programs of SBM
  • Collaboration and good coordination between government and non-governmental actors as well as amongst the various non-governmental agencies working in the sector is crucial for the success of SBM
  • Capacity enhancement through large scale training and implementation of the lessons gained from best practices Communities should be engaged in the monitoring of SBM to ensure accountability and transparency
  • Monitoring should be cross-sector and third party national surveys should be conducted for verification of the data at all stages

Present at the closing plenary were Onno Ruhl, Country Director, World Bank India; Sujoy Majumdar, Director (Sanitation), Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation; Joep Verhagen, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist, WSP; and Girish Menon, Director – International Programmes & Deputy Chief Executive at WaterAid.

Speaking at the closing plenary, Sujoy Mojumdar, Director (Sanitation), Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation said, “65,000 families per day need to be provided toilets over the next four and half years to achieve the goal of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). We need an event like the India WASH Summit in each state of India so that the urgency of the campaign, which goes beyond just construction of toilets, can be directly conveyed to the state authorities. The Ministry will soon be organizing orientation workshops for all district collectors across India to enable them to prioritize sanitation work in their districts. India also needs to conduct a national hygiene baseline survey like Bangladesh did.”

Addressing the delegates, Joep Verhagen said, “There are three dots that need to be connected for the Swachh Bharat campaign to achieve its goal: generation of demand from communities, a robust supply chain market and enough capacity at all levels, right from GP level to the top. We also need to mainstream sanitation through greater collaboration.”

As part of the closing plenary, a special interaction session was also organised in which a number of MPs and MLAs cutting across party lines were present. All of them stressed the importance of sanitation and water and highlighted the problems faced by people in their constituencies.

Mr. A. V. Swamy, MP, Rajya Sabha, Odisha said, “Our sanitation programmes need to be aware of cultural sensitivities. I’m willing to supplement any sanitation programme with funds from MPLAD as long as women spear head the programme.”

Ms. Alka Lamba, MLA, Delhi (Chandni Chowk Constituency) said, “I’ve been elected by the women in my constituency to provide them with safe drinking water and toilets, which I’ll ensure will be done.”

“The Delhi state government will soon map the entire city to assess requirements of toilets and dustbins. I’ll take this up as a priority to ensure that open defecation stops in my constituency,” said Mr. Somnath Bharati, MLA, Delhi (from Malviya Nagar constituency).

The recommendations and solutions gathered from the Summit will be shared with the Government of India so that they can help in the effective implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

“WaterAid is committed to supporting the Government of India in realizing the ambitious but much needed goal of making India open defecation free by Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019. We believe that this is possible only if everyone committed to this goal collaborates and works together to deal with the immense challenges that lie ahead on this path,” concluded Girish Menon, Director – International Programmes & Deputy Chief Executive at WaterAid.

Toilet Facts

44 per cent of the total population in India still defecate in the open.

Open defecation causes chronic diarrhoea that leads to stunting.