Rural Water and Sanitation

Govt shifts focus to sustaining sanitation coverage

The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation prepares a rural sanitation strategy to maintain open-defecation free status and clear up waste issues

By Sushmita Sengupta
Published: Tuesday 10 September 2019
Photo: iStock

The Union government is readying a 10-year strategy to keep India free of open defecation, now that the sanitation coverage is at 99.99 per cent. The focus will also be on managing plastic waste, organic waste, grey water and faecal sludge.

For this, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) organised a meeting for national consultation on rural sanitation strategy on September 9, 2019. There a strategy was worked out together with KPMG and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

KPMG is a private organisation which provides business advisory and sevices like tax and regulations, internal audit and corporate governance.

The country will achieve “sampoorna swachhata” (absolute cleanliness) by 2019-end, said Arun Baroka, joint secretary, DDWS, Ministry of Jal Shakti.

The strategy also includes: Access to sanitation through incentives for households and community sanitation complex, standardisation of pit emptying processes, availability of water supply to toilets (including cleaning of water bodies) and giving appropriate sanitation information.

The DDWS is open to receiving comments on the strategy and modifying it.

The department will promote composting of organic waste at household level and gram panchayats will be made responsible for overseeing this. Grey water management will be done at community, village and household levels. In villages, reuse of treated grey water will be promoted and households will be motivated to take up kitchen gardens and soak pits.

States where single pits are connected to toilets will be upgraded to twin pits or provisions will be made to empty pits every five years. The DDWS stressed on construction of faecal sludge treatment plants for management of excreta. The strategy will also focus on social behaviour change communication strategy.

Since the implementation process will include decentralised governance, Panchayati Raj institutions will be empowered for management and monitoring of the state of sanitation.

After the DDWS received queries from states on the source of funding for post-ODF activities, the department officials explained that funding can be sourced from 15th Finance Commission and convergence with other funds like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and corporate-social responsibility funds.

Also, sanitation projects can operate under private-public partnerships, they said.

Management of single-use plastics will the government’s prime now, said the officials. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will give a clarion call for plastic waste “shramdaan” (voluntary work) from Mathura on September 11.

For appropriate toilet technologies, the Centre will issue advisories on the right type of toilets, said Parameswaran Iyer, secretary, DDWS.

Funding for toilets missed out in the last phase will continue to ensure no area slips back to non-ODF state, Iyer added.

According to DDWS data, the Swachh Bharat Mission has so far achieved the following:

  • Averted 300,000 deaths by 2019
  • Prevented 200 million diarrhoeal cases every year
  • Saved INR 50,000 per family per year in an ODF environment
  • Non-ODF villages are 12.7 times more likely to face groundwater contamination than the ODF villages, according to the data

The meeting was also attended by district magistrates, SBM directors, development partners, research institutions and non-profits. The participants also wanted more focus on menstrual hygiene and disposal of menstrual waste.

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