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On World Toilet Day, a look at India’s sewage data and terrestrial realities

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A toilet block in a village in Bhopal district, Madhya Pradesh  Photo: Anindito Mukherjee |  Bloomberg
A toilet in a village in Bhopal district, Madhya Pradesh Photo: Anindito Mukherjee | Bloomberg

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New Delhi: By 2020 and more than half the world’s population has no safe sanitation, 4.2 billion people worldwide still live without access to toilets.

Every year, on November 19, the United Nations celebrates World Toilet Day to raise awareness of the approximately 4.2 billion people who live without safely managed sewers. The UN commemorates this day to receive a summary of actions taken to address sewerage-related issues.

It aims to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6, which states that access to water and sanitation for all people must be achieved by 2030.

This year, the emphasis has not only been on ensuring sewer access for all, but also on making it sustainable.

Climate change is getting worse. Floods, droughts and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems from toilets in septic tanks to treatment plants. “Everyone should have sustainable sanitation, along with clean water and hand washing equipment, to help protect and safeguard our health and prevent the spread of deadly infectious diseases,” the United Nations said in a statement. proposal for these years World Toilet Day.

He recommended that sustainable sewerage would also help the agricultural sector as waste could be reused, which would reduce emissions by providing a greener world.

In order to develop environmentally friendly sewers, the UN suggests that constructed toilets should capture human waste in a safe, accessible and dignified environment. Waste should be stored in a tank, which can later be emptied either by workers or tubular. Further, the waste must be treated and safe disposal ensured.

Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production and can provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients, states.


Read also: Hindus are less likely to use a toilet than Muslims in India


India fights for toilets

With Prime Minister Narendra Modis’s main program, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which brought cleanliness to the forefront, India’s fight against sanitation has made considerable progress.

Dr Suneel Pandey, director, Environment and Waste Management, Institute of Energy and Resources (TERI), told ThePrint: While India has built many toilets, what is proving to be a challenge is how to keep them clean . There are also certain technical challenges on how to manage wastewater.

Asked about how close India is to the UN goal of achieving sewerage for all by 2030, Dr Pandey said: “We have made some progress but it will be challenging to meet this target by 2030, given that India is a vast country with different climate conditions It will be a challenge to install sewers and toilets in a safe and hygienic way.

Dr Suresh Kumar Rohilla, senior director, Water Program, Center for Science and Environment, told ThePrint: Simply providing toilets does not mark for all hygiene equipment, it also includes providing solid waste management systems, connection of drainage and water.

Given the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increased emphasis on bio-medical waste disposal and solid waste management.

Dr Rohilla recalled that during the pandemic informal sewer workers were not known as part of essential services, which later created a large number of work related to waste management.

The system must recognize the role of these workers. People who are involved in sewers need to be protected, he said.

Together with continued sensitizing people about hygiene and hygiene, Dr Rohilla proposed that an innovation in policy and practice was needed to ensure sustainability.


Read also: Using public toilets costs slum dwellers 104 times more than they spend on their own toilets


The presence of equipment does not ensure use

As the world struggles with the installation of sustainable sewers, India is still struggling against open defecation.

In addition to sanitation for all, UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 is also targeted in the complete elimination of the practice of open defecation and paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

Although the UN aims to eliminate open defecation by 2030, Prime Minister Modis’s government had stated India will be open defecation in October 2019 itself.

Modi had announced that more than 600 million people in India were equipped with toilets. The government also said that in over 60 months, 110 million toilets were built.

As Modi declared India to be without open defecation, a government poll has disputed his claim.

The 76th National Model Survey conducted by the National Statistics Organization found as of september 2018, 28.7 per cent of people in rural Indian households did not have access to toilets, while 32 per cent practiced open defecation.

The poll findings contradicted claims made by the Swachh Bharat Mission, which claimed that only 6 per cent of households in India did not have access to toilets during that period.

Asked if India is without open defecation, sewerage and wastewater management experts claimed that the reality on land is drastically different compared to what has been claimed by the Modi government.

Dr Rohilla said: On paper, yes (India is without open stools).

But he noted the criteria for declaring a faecal region open, a facility should be provided in every house or even 50 meters away from the house.

The definition for ODF (without open stool) is that a convenience is provided. But that does not mean they are using it. That fine print is always there, he explained.

Challenges of entering the toilet

Dr Rohilla found that on the ground there were some instances where toilets are being used as shops because there was no water.

A study carry across Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh by the Compassionate Economy Research Institute in January 2019 found that 23 percent of people in rural areas defecate outdoors. This despite the fact that they had access to toilets.

Dr Pandey and TERI said: We are not fully open stools. The main challenge for the states, which have declared themselves free ODF, is not to fall behind Some findings have found that 90 per cent of India is without open defecation.

He further said that the actions of governments are not enough. With technical solutions, there should also be a package of behavioral and cultural issues, which brings about a change of mindset.

Meanwhile, Dr Rohilla stressed the need to ensure that government-created facilities are much safer than outdoor defecation.

Sewerage is a local entity. People in villages and towns are themselves responsible for the maintenance and use of these structures.

If toilet equipment is created and not hygienically maintained, perhaps open defecation may still be safer compared to poorly managed toilets, Dr Pandey said.

“The government needs to make people realize that the facilities they have created are safer than defecating outside,” he added.


Read also: Swachh Bharat toilets without sewers is why Dalits are after all


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