1. Intro – importance of WASH, especially after Covid.
  2. Relate to SDG goal.
  3. Describe the benefits of SBM & JJM in spurring sanitation ecosystem.
  4. Conclusion.

The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that hygiene, sanitation and water are essential for protecting health. Still, one estimate suggests that 1 in 3 persons do not have basic hand washing facilities; of the women & girls who menstruate, many still do not have the means to safely deal with their menstrual health and hygiene. So, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) has escalated to the centre table of global public health discourse, and India is no exception to it.

WASH initiative has emanated in this backdrop of deficits in human living. One of the SDG includes the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030 (SDG 6). In recent years, India has mounted two missions to deal with the stress in WASH situation – Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM).

India’s behaviour change models : In October 2019, all states and UTs declared themselves as open defecation free (ODF) under SBM. In 2021, the budgetary allocation to SBM was increased to Rs. 1.5 lakh crore, a scale of funding never seen before attending to sanitation. Public funding, strategic partnerships, and people’s participation have been the key to the mission’s success. The WHO assessed that 3 lakh diarrhoea related death have been averted by SBM’s success over 2014-19. Another study by UN Children’s Fund concluded that a household in ODF villages saved Rs. 50,000/year due to time saved & reduced medical costs. The economic benefits of SBM is equivalent to 7.5 million full-time jobs. The new phase of SBM includes the agenda of solid & liquid waste management to make all cities garbage free, for which Rs. 1,41,678 crore will be spent to manage faecal sludge, plastic reduction, wastewater treatment, and source segregation of urban garbage. The highlight is on adopting a circular economy – converting waste to resources. SBM has, therefore, spurred a behavioural change with over 600 million people moving from open defecation to using safe sanitation.

NITI Aayog has pointed that India too, is facing a very significant water crisis with economic growth, livelihoods, human well-being and ecological sustainability at stake. Major portions of India are facing high to extreme water stress. To scale water infrastructure, India has invested Rs. 3.6 lakh crore to provide household tap connections by 2024 to a staggering 950 million people across 190 million rural families. JJM (2019) has brought tap water to 60 million new households, which is poised to touch 100 million by March 2023. Additionally, Rs. 2.87 crore is spent to provide tap connections in 29 million urban households. There is an increasing realisation of the relevance of safe water for women & girls’ health and disease prevention, besides sustainable socio-economic development.

The new understanding of the criticality of WASH is assuring, as this sector was relatively underfunded. Besides higher budgetary allocations, as much as 60% of the funds granted to the rural local bodies by the Finance Commission has been tied exclusively to basic water & sanitation services. This has enhanced collective confidence in long-term health & life quality.

The 2018 Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention was a hopeful moment for many countries struggling to overcome sanitation issues. In that, countries & agencies reaffirmed their commitment to safe sanitation for all through the Delhi Declaration. The Indian experience is a guiding light for many countries to execute this task in a mission mode, which if done, the goals of Agenda 2030 will be within reach.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 19, 2022