India even behind Somalia when it comes to safely managing sanitation services

Friday 24 November 2017

The JMP report also shows significant inequalities in basic drinking water and sanitation services within regions


                    In India, 93 per cent of latrines or septic tanks have never been emptied. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE
In India, 93 per cent of latrines or septic tanks have never been emptied. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE
Quick Read
  • Globally, 2.3 billion people lack even basic sanitation service
  • 892 million people worldwide practise open defecation
  • 844 million people lack even a basic drinking water service

Globally, about 2.3 billion people still lack basic sanitation service, according to the WHO-UNCIEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) titled ‘Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene 2017. The JMP was responsible for monitoring the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target and is now tracking progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets related to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

The majority of the 2.3 billion people, who lacked basic sanitation service as on 2015, either practised open defecation (892 million) or used unimproved facilities like pit latrines without a slab or platform, hanging latrines or bucket latrines (856 million), according to the report.

Inequalities in water, sanitation and hygiene services

The report shows significant inequalities in basic WASH services and open defecation between SDG regions and between countries within each region. The inequalities also exist within individual countries—between urban and rural areas and sub-national regions.

Credit: JMP Report 2017The report cites example of Angola, which has relatively high coverage of basic drinking water compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. However, “there is a 40 percentage point gap between urban and rural areas and a 65 percentage point gap between the richest and poorest quintiles,” the report notes. Similarly, Bangladesh is close to becoming open defecation-free, but the problem of open defecation is now concentrated among two sub-national regions.

National averages often don’t reveal the significant inequalities between sub-national regions.

The SDGs have a stronger focus on inequalities. Goal 10 is dedicated to "reducing inequalities between and within countries".

Question mark on safely managed sanitation services, especially in India

About 38 per cent of global population, 29 per cent of the global urban population and 48 per cent of the rural population use improved sanitation systems like septic tanks or improved latrines, where excreta are stored on-site. Households using such improved sanitation systems can be considered to have safely managed sanitation services if excreta are either disposed of in situ or emptied, transported and treated away from the site.

READ: Urban shit: where does it all go?

Credit: JMP Report 2017

However, the report finds that this is not the case in several countries. In India, for example, 93 per cent of latrines or septic tanks have never been emptied. Hence, it cannot be said that the excreta is safely managed. India is well behind countries such as Senegal, Bangladesh, Somalia and Ecuador when it comes to having safely managed sanitation services.

Drinking water

According to the JMP report, 2.1 billion people lacked safely managed drinking water services at the end of 2015. Safely managed drinking water is defined as use of an improved drinking water source that is located on premises, available when needed and free from faecal and priority chemical contamination.

Of the 2.1 billion, about 1.3 billion used basic services, 263 million used limited services and 423 million used unimproved sources. There were 159 million people using surface water in 2015, of which, 147 million lived in rural areas, and over half of them lived in sub-Saharan Africa.

Populations having no drinking water service and collecting water directly from surface water sources like rivers, lakes and irrigation canals face serious risks to their health and well-being. The global population using surface water decreased from 4 per cent in 2000 to just 2 per cent in 2015.

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