Sanitation in India: an overview


  • Sanitation is intrinsically linked to health.
  • It is thus important to formulate and implement concrete plans in Wastewater and Faecal Sludge Management.

What is the scope of sanitation?

  • The entire cycle of sanitation is what to be considered as the scope of sanitation.
  • It certainly begins with toilets but has to end with safe waste disposal.

What is the cycle of sanitation?

  • The full cycle of sanitation has four stages:
    • access to toilets;
    • safe containment;
    • conveyance either through the sewerage network or de-sludging trucks, and
    • treatment and disposal.

Sanitation in India: an overview

  • India has the highest number of people without basic sanitation.
  • Reports say that more than 732 million people still suffer fear and indignity of relieving themselves in the open or in unsafe or unhygienic toilets.


  • There has been immense progress made in improving access to sanitation by working with the Swachh Bharat Mission with 52 million household toilets built between October 2014 and November 2017.
  • India also ranks in the top ten for reducing open defecation and improving access to basic sanitation.

Current major sanitation campaigns in India:

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) is a campaign in India by the government of India.
  • It aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, smaller towns, and rural areas.
  • It also aims in eliminating open defecation through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring toilet use.
  • Run by the Government of India, the mission aims to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2 October 2019.

State of Urban Water and Sanitation in India:

  • The State of Urban Water and Sanitation in Indiareport emerges from a three-year (2014-2017) collaborative program funded by the USAID.
  • The report aims to be a comprehensive collection and analysis of past and current policies and programmes and provides insights into the reasons for several gaps that become apparent when the sector is viewed holistically.

The ABC of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH):

  • “The ABC of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) improvement in schools” in India by the Urban Management Centre is a handbook developed under the Ahmedabad Sanitation Action Lab (ASAL), a three year action research program.
  • The program was specially designed to implement innovative solutions to school WASH  problems in identified slum settlements of Ahmedabad.

Why sanitation campaigns in India do fail?

  • The implementation of was far from perfect, both in terms of the levels of coverage achieved and the levels of utilization.
  • Out of 63% increase in toilet coverage, only 38% of the households had a functional toilet.
  • Government’s rural sanitation programme, implemented by NGOs and community-based organisations, was unable to reduce exposure to faecal matter.
  • As a result, this sanitation programme had no impact on the reduction of diarrhoea and malnutrition cases.
  • Most of the campaigns are still struggling in bringing behavioral changes in rural population.
  • Most of the money is going towards latrine construction, and very little towards information, education, and communication.
  • The allocation of central government budgetary allocation for health sector out of the total budget remains stagnant at only 1.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
  • India has managed to connect only a little more than a third of its urban households, most of which are located in metropolitan cities, to sewerage systems.
  • Water and sanitation are taken as independent activities.
  • Therefore in the 12th Plan, a need has been identified for integration of housing, water and sanitation needs.

What are the measures to be taken?

  • Sanitation programmes need to increase both the coverage and use of toilets, as well as improved hygienic practices.
  • Political will and commitment is also required urgently to tackle the crisis of sanitation.
  • Unless faecal waste is treated properly and disposed of safely, it will find its way back into our bodies.
  • Urban local bodies and State governments could ensure that the larger containment systems such as community toilets and public toilets are properly constructed and managed.
  • Permission could be granted to new buildings, especially large apartment complexes only when the applicants show proper septage construction designs.
  • The safety of sanitary workers who clean tanks and pits must be ensured by enforcing occupational safety precautions.
  • There is a to ensure inclusion, recognising the importance of safe and accessible toilets specific to the needs of the differently-abled, the elderly, the poorest, as well as women and adolescent girls.
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