AIR spotlight summary on “Two years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”.
- In 2014 a new dimension was added to the day of 2nd October by launching Swachh Bharat Mission. The mission completes 2 years. Today 2nd October is significant for many reasons. It’s the birthday of Gandhiji, Lal Bahadur Shastri, signing of the Paris Accord, and completion of 2 years of Swachh Bharat Mission. All these are inter-connected.
- Gandhiji’s life itself was a message to climate change. His was a very frugal life. Today the world is struggling to remain frugal. Gandhiji always focussed on sanitation. It’s indeed an opportunity and the challenge before the government to use 2nd October for all the messages put together.
Progress of Swachh Bharat Mission
- The progress of the mission is slow in terms of actual coverage of toilets in both rural and urban areas. This mission is a process and not a product. What is important is there is an environment created, a sense created across India to be clean. This message is stronger than before and is more relevant today.
- Therefore the progress should not be counted in terms of numbers. Progress should be counted in terms of the message that has gone across, awareness it has generated, the inter-departmental coordination it has come about, and people have taken the message clearly.
- 37 districts and over 100 thousand villages have been declared open defecation free, in urban areas the community toilet and private toilet construction is about 35%, 140 cities have door to door waste collection, segregation and transportation. This shows we are moving forward.
- Incidentally porbandar city where Gandhiji was born was declared open defecation free.
Challenges and areas of concern
- Construction of toilets and behavioural change has to go together. Today at least one person in every household having a toilet is defecating in open. This means psychologically they find some limitation in the structure of toilets being provided.
- The challenge is to design toilets for rural areas so that people can pick and choose. This is something which has not been focused.
- In rural areas the socio-cultural setting is different. Why would a women use the same male toilet. Gender–blind(or unisex) toilet construction in rural areas should have re-thinking.
- On the design side the government has not done much. This is a challenge to the entrepreneurs and to the government to invest in this. This will add in bringing more people to use toilets.
- Another issue with the usage of toilets is the scarcity of water. People walk miles to fetch water for drinking. To address this, subsidy given to the household for construction of toilets in rural areas has factored in the water element.
- In rural areas the entire water system is decentralised. Houses are scattered, they are not in one place. So providing water at different points is a difficult task.
- In urban slums, urban construction sites we never see toilets. This promotes open defecation. Even in some households maids often go out to defecate, it is the mindset of the educated and the elite class. This attitude must change. The inequality in the usage pattern is a serious concern. This issue must be the focus of future discussions.
- Today the impact of climate change is felt by the poor like the farmers. Climate change and hygiene are linked to health. Focusing on Climate change and hygiene will improve the health indicators.
Need of the Hour
- Drainage, sewage and waste disposal issues are yet to be addressed. Today India produces an average of half a KG of solid waste per capita. The annual output is 50,000 tonnes per year.
- If this waste is composed in which 40 to 50% of it is organic waste, and decentralise all across the country, it will generate enough manure to increase the organic carbon content of the soil.
- The Indian soil is low in carbon and so it cannot hold water for a long time. The soil is not fertile enough to attain the level of productivity. So there is a need to have enough of organic content in the soil.
- There is an opportunity here. Turning the municipal waste into compost has double benefits. Enriching the soil with carbon there by reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and avoiding the undesirable burning of municipal waste.
- The message of the health conditions by not having a toilet does not go down to people. We can target school children, community and SHGs to send across the message in a stronger way.