New Delhi: WaterAid India (WAI) welcomes the high level political commitments of the Prime Minister on 15 August 2014 of setting 2019 as a goal to achieve universal access to sanitation. In an effort to support this renewed emphasis on ending sanitation crisis in India and also as a committed sector actor, WaterAid India launches an ‘Interactive Map’ to monitor the gaps in Sanitation in India in a step towards supporting the implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Our work on the ground for over almost three decades in India informs us that “what gets measured is what gets done” and it is necessary to have a robust mechanism for monitoring.
This map is a tool to track the progress made under SBM especially in terms of construction of Individual Household Toilets (IHHL) and community sanitary complexes up to the district level. The Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation baseline survey 2012 and on-going data collection has been used as the data source for this map. This will help track the progress in terms of key gap areas and lagging geographies.
Sanitation coverage is still around 30% in Rural and about 80% in Urban (Census 2011) and the budget allocation remains at 0.04% of the GDP in India. People with disabilities, women, girls and socially excluded communities are the worst sufferers of this neglect to sanitation and hygiene. It is in this background, the SBA needs to have accelerated programming and leadership at different levels so as to achieve the status of Open Defecation in India. WAI hopes the map will help accelerating inclusive sanitation coverage.
This year, on the occasion of World Toilet Day, WaterAid India organised a panel discussion at the Press Club of India in New Delhi where esteemed panelists such as Akhila Sivadas, Director – Centre for Advocacy and Research; Payal Hathi, Associate Director – Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, S. K Mahajan – Director (RAY & Monitoring) and OSD, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board and Nitya Jacob, Head of Policy – WaterAid India and Mamata Dash, Campaigns Head of WaterAid India presented their views. The panellists welcomed the launch of Interactive Map and shared their views on the importance of governance and monitoring for an effective implementation of SBM in India. They also drew the attention towards sustainable sanitation and the need to close the loop – from human excreta disposal to management and also solid and liquid waste management. The discussion focused on areas like possibilities that the SBM holds in making India open defecation free by 2019, importance of monitoring and evaluation and the role played by civil society in making India a better place in terms of sanitation.
WaterAid India Chief Executive, Neeraj Jain on the occasion said:
“Despite being aware of the harmful effects of poor sanitation on the health of the children, over 59.4 crores people in India lack access to a basic toilet.
As we observe yet another World Toilet Day, India continues to have the highest number of under five children dying every year. Majority of them dying of totally preventable and curable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Though the government in India has stepped up and committed to providing universal access to toilets by 2019, we as individuals need to realise our responsibilities and work towards securing a healthy future of our kids.”
WaterAid India has also reached out to the health secretaries in 11 states and appealed to them for clean and functional toilet facilities in all health care centres and inclusion and monitoring of indicators on water, sanitation and hygiene under the diarrhoea monitoring protocol to influence policymakers at various levels. In addition, WaterAid India has scheduled to carry out a range of awareness and advocacy activities across 11 states in order to highlight the urgency of addressing the crisis of sanitation and urging everyone to join the effort. Some of them include:
- In Delhi, a giant mock toilet and inflatable balloon will be installed in a public place ensuring high visibility thus creating awareness about the cause. Also various cultural programs will be performed by street theatre groups working with the marginalised communities.
- In Madhya Pradesh, a number of Gram Panchayats will be declared to be Open Defecation Free and key leaders in making the villages ODF will be felicitated.
- In Bihar, the launch of Bihar WASH Manch (a state WASH forum) will be held on 18 November which will be attended by Upendra Kumar Kushwaha, Minister of State for Human Resource Development.
- In Hyderabad, a panel discussion with eminent citizens will be held on 19 November to highlight the issues and solicit participation of people in this mission.
Globally, a number of prominent international health and development experts including representatives from WaterAid, Indian Medical Association, All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health and others gave a call to end the crisis that has claimed the lives of over 1 crore children under the age of five since the year 2000, with 28 lakh having died over this period in India. In an open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, the signatories have highlighted the desperate waste of life caused by people not having access to a basic toilet. Without basic sanitation, children have no choice but to live and play in areas contaminated by human waste.
On this occasion, Dr. Madhumita Dobe, Chairperson – Indian Academy of Public Health, Indian Public Health Association said:
“Improper sanitation and unhygienic practices is one of the leading causes for the sufferings of millions of children in the developing nations of the world. Diarrhoea alone accounts for the death of over 3,000 [i]children each day. Being a preventable disease, it is imperative for us to respond to this largely preventable public health challenge and fight this killer.”
The letter coincides with a new briefing released by WaterAid: ‘Child of Mine’ which states that sanitation ‘remains one of the most neglected issues in developing countries and international development aid. As the briefing highlights, this is despite a quarter of the 16.2 crore children globally who have had their growth stunted and their physical and cognitive development impaired, because they suffered repeated bouts of diarrhoea when very young.
The release of the letter to the UN Secretary-General and the publication of the briefing come at a crucial time, as governments work to complete the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that run from 2000 to 2015, and negotiate the new Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace them. WaterAid India is calling on the Government to commit to backing a new goal for everyone everywhere to have access to clean water and basic sanitation.