One year on, India’s need for ‘toilets not temples’ still critical, says WaterAid

  • Nearly 70,000 new toilets a day needed to reach everyone by 2019

  • Toilets help reduce risk of violence against women and improve health

Video News Release with transcript

10-minute film Password: ACROSSTH3TR4CKS


One year after Narendra Modi’s rise to power in India following his ‘toilets, not temples’ campaign, access to sanitation is improving but the target of delivering toilets for all by 2019 remains a long way off, the international organisation WaterAid said today.

Since the subsequent launch of Modi’s Clean India campaign, Swachh Bharat, in October, US $360 million has been invested in toilet construction and more than 2.5 million toilets have been built.

However, another 100.4 million toilets need to be built in the next four and half years to ensure no one has is forced to go outside for open defecation. That’s nearly 70,000 toilets that have to be built every single day.
Despite strong campaign promises, the recently announced 2015-16 budget has almost halved funding for Clean India, devolving spending for water and sanitation to individual states.

Funding for information, education and communication around sanitation and hygiene, a key component in ensuring toilet construction is accompanied by behaviour change, has also been reduced, from 15 per cent to 8 per cent.

Girish Menon, WaterAid’s Director of International Programmes and Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“WaterAid is committed to supporting the Government of India in realising the ambitious but much needed goal of making India free of open defecation by the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth in 2019.

“The Clean India campaign could well mark a turning point in India’s history. We believe that a toilet for everyone is possible only if everyone committed to this goal works together to deal with the immense challenges that lie ahead. With much of the onus now on individual states, there is a need for clear guidelines on the importance and benefit of this mission.
“Just building toilets is not enough; behaviour change is also crucial. Cultural practices often do not encourage toilet use. Many people feel that relieving themselves in the open is healthier than using a toilet in a small, enclosed space. As well as addressing these misconceptions and encouraging people to install and use toilets at home, service providers need to ensure that public facilities, too, are fit for use.”

Nearly 800 million people in India, or 64% of the population, are without basic sanitation facilities. Just under 600 million practise open defecation.
A lack of access to safe toilets has serious consequences. It spreads faecal matter, causing sickness. More than 186,000 children under the age of five die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in India.

Going for open defecation is also embarrassing, smelly and dirty, and it exposes women and girls to an increased risk of fear, harassment and attack.

In a WaterAid survey of 9,644 Dalit households from rural villages in four Indian states, a quarter (26%) of those questioned reported women from their household being insulted or humiliated when practising open defecation.

Furthermore, 6% specifically reported women being sexually harassed when practising open defecation.
In the community of Rakhi Mandi, a slum in the Indian city of Kanpur, Radha Verma’s 14-year-old daughter narrowly escaped a physical attack when going for open defecation by deserted railway tracks. This traumatic experience spurred her on to work with WaterAid to build one of the first toilets in her community.

In crowded informal slums like Radha’s, residents often don’t have the legal right to build a toilet or any other structure, even if they have the means and ability to do so.

While having a household toilet cannot protect her daughter from any instances of violence against women, it does mean she will no longer be putting herself in a vulnerable position of seeking privacy to go to the toilet every day.

Radha Verma said:
“A toilet is more important for us than food; it helps give us security, what could be better than that?”

For more on Radha’s experience please see our VNR and transcript, on the link above.

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.