It is a well known fact that inadequate sanitation pollutes environment, causes diseases, kills people and diminishes welfare in the society. But apart from these, the economic impacts of poor sanitation have many negative ramifications that have not been taken seriously in India. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who understood the importance of clean society for a nation’s prosperity and launched Swachh Bharat Mission on October 2nd 2014.

As per baseline survey conducted by ministry of Drinking water & sanitation, 55 crore people were defecating in open in October 2014, which declined to 25 crore in January 2018, at a much faster pace compared to the trend observed before 2014.

From time to time, the Ministry of Drinking water & sanitation organizes Education and Communication (IEC) activities like door to door IPC (interpersonal communication), Swachhta raths, rallies, marathons, felicitation of champions, quiz and painting competitions for awareness generations and mass mobilization of communities across the rural hinterland are carried out for trigging behavior change. The Government of India understood that sanitation is mainly a behavioral issue in the country and even with the best of policies, the changes will not happen by changing the mindset amongst people to stop open defecation and to adopt safe sanitation practices.

The Swachh Bharat Mission is the largest behaviour change programme in the world. Through mobilization of rural communities, the SBM (Gramin) has truly turned into a jan andolan, a people’s movement. The Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) has made significant progress in the three and a half years since its launch. The rural sanitation coverage has more than doubled since the launch of the mission from 39% to nearly 84%. Over 7 crore toilets have been built across rural India under the Mission. As an outcome, over 3.6 lakh villages and 385 districts have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), across 17 States and Union Territories.

With over half the country declared ODF, the Mission is also working on sustaining the ODF status in these areas. Terming this a “Sanitation Revolution in Rural India”, the Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Shri Parameswaran lyer has said that the Mission is on track to achieve an ODF India by October 2019.. UNICEF estimates that the lack of sanitation is responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 children in India annually. A Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation study estimates that households in ODF villages in India have significantly better health indicators.

The United Nations-World Health Organization Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation defines ’improved’ sanitation as the means that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact and hence reduces health risks to humans. Inadequate sanitation is thus, the lack of improved facilities (toilets, conveyance, and treatment systems), and hygienic practices (for example, hand washing, proper water handling, personal hygiene, and so on) that exposes people to human excreta and thus to disease-causing fecal-oral pathogens through different transmission pathways.

The World Health Organisation report states that one gram of feces can contain around 10,000,000 viruses, 1,000,000 bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs. Open defecation poses a serious threat to the health of children in India. The practice is the main reason India reports the highest number of Diarrhoea deaths among children under-five in the world. Diarrhoea and worm infections are two major health conditions that affect school-age children impacting their learning abilities.

India ranks top for having the greatest number urbanites living without a safe, private toilet which is around 157 million as well as 41 million urban dwellers practicing Open defecation, states a report by Water Aid, a UK-based charity working in the field of safe water and sanitation. The report further explains that in India, 381 million people a population roughly the size of Western Europe live in rapidly expanding urban areas, and 157 million of those people have nowhere decent to go to the toilet.

In several metro cities near the most urban societies, one can sight people urinating openly due to lack of availability of public toilets. This issue has been bothering the country for decades but due to huge migration and limited toilet facilities nothing substantial has been achieved. The government realized this issue and built several public toilets over the years but in order to increase the usage of these toilets, it was essential for citizens to be able to locate the nearest toilet. Further to this, it was envisaged that if the data of presence of toilet nearby can be made available on a publicly available online maps platform, it will provide ease of access to the citizens.

Rejuvenation of Ganga River:

Accordingly, an Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission called “Namami Gange” has been proposed to be set up and a sum of Rs 2,037 crores has been set aside for this purpose. In addition, a sum of Rs 100 crores has been allocated for developments of Ghats and beautification of River Fronts at Kedarnath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Delhi in the current financial year.

Accordingly, Namami Gange approaches Ganga Rejuvenation by consolidating the existing ongoing efforts and planning for a concrete action plan for future. The interventions at Ghats and River fronts will facilitate better citizen connect and set the tone for river centric urban planning process.

Recognizing the multi-sectoral, multidimensional and multi-stakeholder nature of the Ganga Rejuvenation challenge, the key Ministries comprising of (a) WR, RD&GR, (b) Environment, Forests & Climate Change, (c) Shipping, (d) Tourism, (e) Urban Development, (f) Drinking Water and Sanitation and Rural Development have been working together since June, 2014 to arrive at an action plan. The concerned Ministers have nominated a Group of Secretaries to develop a draft action plan and have held periodical meetings to review the progress and provide guidance. NMCG has been working in parallel on a draft strategy taking into account all these developments. .

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Courtesy: Kurukshetra