[Answered] Investment in sanitation is actually a facilitator for broader economic, health and social gains. Comment.

Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss how investment in sanitation leads to economic, health and social gains. Also mention Government efforts to improve sanitation in India. Conclusion. Way forward.

Sanitation is intrinsically linked to health. Improved sanitation has been shown to have great impacts on people’s health and economy. Thus, investment in sanitation is important to ensure health of citizens that would lead to other socio-economic gains through less spending on health and diseases.

How investment in sanitation leads to economic, health and social gains?

Economic benefits: Economic benefits of investing in water and sanitation are considerable. Enhance GDP: According to WHO, there is an overall estimated gain of 1.5% of global GDP for every dollar invested in water and sanitation services. Increased productivity: There is greater economic productivity and involvement of workforce in the workplace through better access to facilities.More savings: Poor sanitation causes economic losses associated with the direct costs of treating sanitation-related illnesses and lost income through reduced or lost productivity. Better sanitation reduces these expenditures and leads to savings which are important for banking sectors.Tourism: Poor sanitation also leads to losses due to impact on tourism. People are usually about places to visit that are unclean and have inadequate sanitation facilities. Better sanitation enhances the tourism industry.Recycle economy: Investing in sanitation leads to potential recovery of water, renewable energy and nutrients from faecal waste.
Social benefits: Improved sanitation leads to various social gains especially due to reduced health care costs for individuals and society. More social spending: Due to less spending on disease and health, social spending like on education, skills etc. increases.Better income: With better health and reduced diseases, productivity of individuals increases. Further, women’s workforce increases due to better sanitation facilities at the workplace leading to an increase in family income.Reduce poverty: The countries where poor sanitation is most widespread have the highest number of deaths of children aged under 5 years as well as the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty and big disparities of wealth. Sanitation helps in reducing poverty by breaking the cycle of poor health and spending on it.Women empowerment: Better sanitation facilities promote dignity and boost safety, among women and girls. It helps in increasing girls’ school attendance boosted by the provision of separate sanitary facilities.
Health gains Reduce incidence of diseases: There is clear evidence that shows that hygiene significantly reduces the incidence of diseases like diarrhoea, which is the second leading cause of death amongst children under five years old. Antimicrobial Resistance: Lack of sanitation facilities also results in unnecessary use of antibiotics, thereby spreading antimicrobial resistance. Poor Hygiene leads to microbes getting adapted. Thus improved sanitation can help in reducing incidence of antimicrobial resistance.

Government efforts to improve sanitation in India:

  1. Total Sanitation Campaign: Total Sanitation Campaign launched in 1986 under name of The Central Rural Sanitation Program to encourage households to finance their own toilets while providing financial assistance to underprivileged.
  2. National Urban sanitation policy: National Urban sanitation policy was launched to accelerate sanitation in urban areas in 2008 to make our cities open defecation free.
  3. Nirmal Bharat Mission: Nirmal Bharat Mission launched for rural sanitation and hygiene to provide a framework to keep the environment clean and healthy by eliminating the habit of open defecation, framework for solid & liquid waste management.
  4. Swachh Bharat Mission: Swachh Bharat Mission launched in 2014 to clean India as a national movement which raised incentives for building toilets. Providing funds for Solid & Liquid waste management in gram panchayats is also a part of it.
  5. Regulatory action: Making candidates ineligible in panchayat election if they don’t have toilets at their home is a good initiative to promote cleanliness.
  6. 6.       10 Year Rural Sanitation Strategy: The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation has launched the 10 Year Rural Sanitation Strategy (2019-2029). The strategy lays down the roadmap for Open defecation free Plus which is the government’s next step in dealing with open defecation and sanitation issues in the country.

Way forward:

  1. Develop National standards and accountability mechanisms: Health authorities should establish national standards and accountability mechanisms. Lack of quality data limits authorities’ understanding of the problem. A national road-map is needed to improve sanitation facilities.
  2. Behavioural Change and culture of cleanliness: Health authorities should work towards developing a culture of cleanliness and safety in all healthcare facilities. The Swachh Bharat Scheme should give special focus on behaviour change that must be instilled among the community towards hygiene.
  3. Ensure timely data collection: Authorities should ensure that collection of data on key sanitary indicators should be done on time. It will accelerate progress by promoting continued action and accountability.
  4. Conduct situation analysis and assessment: An analysis to examine health and sanitation policies, governance structures, and funding is needed. An assessment is necessary for updated figures on sanitation coverage and compliance in health facilities. Together, these documents form the basis for prioritising policies and mobilising resources.
  5. Improve and maintain infrastructure- Sanitation facilities’ infrastructure should be improved to meet national standards. It should be accompanied by various policies inputs.
  6. Engage communities– Community members play an important role in using and providing feedback on services. They must be included in the development of policies and in the regular review of sanitation coverage and implementation data.

Poor access to safe water and adequate sanitation continues to be a threat to human health. As member states strive to achieve the SDG targets, investment in sanitation is crucial. Emphasis should be placed on interventions likely to yield an accelerated, affordable and sustainable health gain.

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