Policy and advocacy for sanitation

Need to clean our biases first, then our streets

The country is ostensibly in the throes of a great social movement for sanitation. Gandhi’s name is evoked, Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads from the front, ministers lift brooms for cameras, and officers, college and school children take oaths against littering and to clean their surroundings. Earlier the PM pledges in his Independence Day speech toilets for girls and boys in all schools.

We have a lot to learn...

Last week’s Water and Health Conference held at the University of North Carolina’s Water Institute had an array of different workshops, side events and oral and poster presentations focusing on sanitation. After only a day into the week-long event two important messages started to emerge. Firstly, the sanitation problem is endemic in certain parts of the world, especially India, and unfortunately we do not know a lot and have an awful lot to learn.

Modi's Clean India Campaign: Don’t Waste the Opportunity

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister (PM) of India, launched a Swach Bharat (Clean India) campaign on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.  Senior government officials, politicians and Bollywood actors were seen holding brooms in their hands cleaning neighbourhoods and getting photographed. The twitterati was abuzz with excitement. The campaign was filled with images and messages. The PM aims to have a Clean India by the time of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019. The campaign is timely but will it be effective.

India’s sanitation campaigns have cost 40 times Mars mission budget

Since 1986, India has spent over $3 billion on constructing toilets across the country, figures from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation show. Since 1986, India has spent over $3 billion on constructing toilets across the country, figures from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation show. Despite such massive investments, India’s sanitation campaigns over the years have unfortunately yielded limited results. India continues to have the largest number of people who defecate in the open.

Action Learning: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s missing master key

The number and nature of the many forces that intertwine to trap rural Indians in filth and infections are still not fully recognised. Widespread preference for open defecation (OD), subsidised toilets, corruption, caste and divided communities, concepts of purity, population increase and density, faecally-transmitted infections (FTIs) causing undernutrition (‘shit stunts’), diminishing cognitive ability and damaging immune systems, and the multiple physical and social harms inflicted on women and girls – these are among the forces that interlock as a syndrome - a net, a trap, a prison - escape from which is fiendishly difficult.

To end open defecation, make Indians want to

Over half of all Indians defecate in the open, and in rural areas, this figure is about 70 per cent. In contrast, less than 1 per cent of people in China, 4 per cent of people in Bangladesh, and about a quarter of people in Sub-Saharan Africa defecate in the open. Why is there so much more open defecation in India? Considering that open defecation in rural India causes death, disease, malnutrition and the loss of economic productivity, understanding why it is so common is an important priority.

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