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Swachh Bharat Mission

1. India is now in the final stretch of achieving a hundred percent open defecation free status.

2. WHO study had estimated the Swachh Bharat mission will save over 3 lakh lives by the time India is 100% Open defecation free.

What are the progress made and initiatives taken?

1. According to the latest government data, the programme has achieved its target well in time and more than 9 crore toilets have been constructed across the country till February 2019.

2. Under Swachh Bharat mission-Grameen, the government has also declared over 5.65 lakh villages and 619 districts Open defecation free.

3. Under the urban mission, over 4000 towns and cities have also declared themselves ODF.

4. Besides, 30 states and union territories have also declared themselves ODF, taking the National Rural Sanitation coverage up from 39% in 2014 to over 98% as of now.

5. Initiatives taken:

a. Inter-ministerial collaboration for the Namami Gange programme plans to make villages on the banks of the Ganga open defecation free.

b. The Swachhta Action plan (SAP) under a separate budget head has been created by all ministries. In 2017-18, 77 ministries committed funds worth 12468.62 for their SAP’s.

c. Swachh Swasth Sarvatra, a joint initiative between the water and sanitation and the Health Ministry to further the ODF drive.

d. The Swachh iconic places, a multi-stakeholder initiative focuses on cleaning up places of heritage, religious or cultural significance.

Why is Sanitation and Hygiene a concern worldwide?

1. Water scarcity affects 40 percent of people around the world. In 2011, as many as 41 countries experienced water stress.

2. Clean water and sanitation, therefore, have been adopted as a sustainable development goal (SDG-6) to be achieved by 2030.

3. India's growing population and not so efficient agricultural practices are putting a severe strain on natural resources, especially water.

4. According to the UN, every year millions of people mostly children die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

Which are the findings of UN Report on India’s sanitation mission?

1. India’s huge population has a crucial role in achieving sustainable development goals.

2. Between the year 2000 to 2017, the South Asian region including India accounted for almost 3/4th of the population who stopped defecating in the open.

3. There is a huge reduction in open defecation among Indian households. About 650 million people in India have given up the practice in between 2002-2017.

4. India figures among the top 10 countries that have reduced open defecation by over 20 percentage points since 2000.

5. Before 2014 just under 40% of the country's population had access to a household toilet which has increased to 99.2% as of 2019.

6. Between 2000-2014 open defecation decreased by 3% per year and between 2015-2019 it came down by over 12% every year.

7. The environmental impact of the Swachh bharat mission also improved, particularly in terms of fecal contamination of Groundwater, the study found that Non-ODF villages were more likely to have groundwater, soil, food, household drinking water contaminated compared to ODF villages.

8. These reductions may be attributed to the improvement in sanitation and hygiene practices and regular monitoring and behavior change messaging which have been critical in Swachh Bharat mission-Grameen.

Where does the challenge lie?

1. Behavioral change 

a. The major factor relates to behavioral change that generally arise from Puritan religious beliefs where people view toilets as impure and refrain from installing them on household premises.

b. Most defecate in the open as they have grown accustomed to it since their childhood.

2. Poor Fecal sludge handling.

How to address it?

1. Behavioral change can be brought by projecting toilets as a trend rather than forcing them as a prescription.

2. Efficient fecal sludge management by establishing a monitoring system to ensure the toilets are emptied regularly and waste is decomposed safely and not in nearby rivers.

3. In rural areas focus is needed on Panchayati Raj institutions to promote sustainable sanitation practices and create public supported frameworks of organic disposal and utilization of human waste.

4. Students must be taught about the importance of sanitation right from childhood as a part of curriculum.

5. Proper awareness, monitoring and maintenance of toilets by incentives and penalties to sustain the ODF status must be done.