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AIR spotlight summary on “India Sanitation Conference”


AIR spotlight summary on “India Sanitation Conference”




  • Sanitation campaign is now a high profile campaign and getting more attention at the official level than before. Ambitious targets are set and these are time based targets. There are well recognised brand ambassadors.
  • Adequate budgetary support is required to achieve the ambitious targets. The question is not of constructing toilets, but its maintenance and behavioural change.

Importance of Behavioural change

  • Behavioural change is the important part of the entire sanitation effort. We cannot entirely isolate it from people’s ability to use toilet in terms of adequate water. Sometimes people have to walk long distances to fetch drinking water. Then it becomes an additional burden to get water for sanitation also. These constraints have to be kept in mind.
  • Behavioural change depends from area to area and with certain circumstances also. In the rural areas which are getting urbanised, the pressure to have toilets are high. In these areas there is no need to talk about behavioural change.
  • Where as in some places people do not feel the pressure to shift to using toilets. Efforts need to be made here to bring about the behavioural change.

Highlights of Sanitation Campaign

  • Students and youth can be used in creative ways for keeping the schools clean. One important component of swachh bharat abhiyan is to have toilet facilities in all the schools. This is very important without which several girls drop out from schools.
  • Drinking water and sanitation are closely associated in addition to the water needed for sanitation. There is a need to link health and sanitation.
  • Still lot more needs to be done to achieve the target by 2019.
  • Even today we see prevalence of open defecation and not using toilets.
  • Toilets, drains and solid waste management have to be in sync with each other. But there is a missing link.

Decentralised Efforts

  • Many urban areas too don’t have sewage facility. The limited sewage facility causes serious problem of river pollution. We need highly decentralised technology for treating sewage within the colony.
  • We can have series of ponds exposing the sewage to maximum sunlight possible and passing the sewage to other processes and try to bring it to such a condition that it can be used for irrigation.
  • Through decentralised solid waste management, we can segregate the waste generated at the source. Segregate into compostable waste, non – compostable waste and hazardous waste.
  • The decentralised system is cost effective as waste is not carried to a long distance. It has not been tried on a significant scale.
  • In Pune the rag pickers were involved in segregation of solid waste. We saw their livelihood was improved and the solid waste management system also improved.    
  • The livelihood of all those involved should be protected and should get more dignity. Give them smart uniforms and required facilities so that they work in more effective way.
  • So there is a need to combine both i.e. to improve sanitation facilities and provide dignity to sanitation workers.

Role of Religion

  • If religion could play a positive role in improving hygiene, cleanliness and making sanitation better, this linkage can be utilised.
  • Through religion we can spread the habit of washing hands because it is well integrated with religion. Recent scientific research has shown that washing hands before taking food is a healthy habit and protects us from several diseases. Scientific facts are the same as what is been promoted through religion.

Role of panchayat

  • At the level of panchayat, like a team of masons who build toilets, we should have awareness agents swachhata doot(community volunteer)were used as the agents who can generate awareness.
  • The targets are ambitious for the 5 year period. So each panchayat can have a team just for sanitation. Like 2 workers, 2 masons and one awareness coordinator.
  • Brand ambassadors have a limited role to play. In a panchayat or a remote village it is local Heros who have been the source of inspiration for the people.

The issue of manual scavenging

  • Rehabilitation of those who were engaged in manual scavenging is very important. Ensure that manual scavenging is abolished at all places. The rehabilitation component needs more attention.
  • The local administration need to be careful about finding out the details whether manual scavenging has been abolished or not. The truth may be that in some villages manual scavengers may not say no to the dominant groups. In the initial stage of the new colonies where sewage facility is not present, manual scavenging may still be existent.