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Reports on open defecation in India


  • According to a new Joint Monitoring Programme Report on water, sanitation and hygeine by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF – India was responsible for the largest drop in open defecation since 2015, in terms of absolute numbers.
  • Besides open defecation, the Joint Monitoring Report also emphasised universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 in achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.


GS-II: Social Justice (Management of Social Sector, Issues regarding health)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is WASH?
  2. Important facts regarding WASH
  3. Highlights of the latest reports
  4. India’s Initiatives against open defecation

What is WASH?

  • WASH is an acronym that stands for the interrelated areas of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) WASH Strategy has been developed in response to Member State Resolution (WHA 64.4) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 3: Good Health and Well Being, SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation).
  • It is a component of WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work 2019–2023 which aims to contribute to the health of three billion through multisectoral actions like better emergency preparedness and response; and one billion with Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
  • It also takes on board the need for progressive realization of the human rights to safe drinking-water and sanitation, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2010.

Important facts regarding WASH

  • A 2019 joint global baseline report by WHO and UNICEF had pointed out that globally, one in four healthcare facilities lacked basic water servicing and one in five had no sanitation service and 42% had no hygiene facilities at point of care.
  • A 2012 WHO report had calculated that for every dollar invested in sanitation, there was USD 5.50 to be gained in lower health costs, more productivity and fewer premature deaths.
  • A WHO document on WASH in healthcare facilities points out that more than 8 lakh people in low- and middle-income countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene each year.
  • The WHO document also points out that the death of almost 3 lakh children under five years can be prevented each year if better WASH could be provided.

Highlights of the latest reports

  • Within India, open defecation had been highly variable regionally since at least 2006 and in 2006 the third round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) found open defecation to be practiced by less than 10 per cent of the population in four states and the Union Territory of Delhi, but by more than half the population in 11 states.
  • By 2016, when the fourth round of the NFHS was conducted, open defecation had decreased in all states, with the largest drops seen in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.

Global data

  • Between 2016 and 2020, the global population with access to safely managed drinking water at home increased to 74 per cent, from 70 per cent. There was an increase in safely managed sanitation services to 54 per cent, from 47 per cent between 2016 and 2020.
  • Globally, access to safely managed sanitation services increased over the 2000-2020 period by an average of 1.27 percentage points per year.

India’s Initiatives against open defecation

National rural sanitation strategy:

  • The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti has launched the 10-year Rural Sanitation Strategy starting from 2019 up to 2029.
  • It lays down a framework to guide local governments, policy-makers, implementers and other relevant stakeholders in their planning for Open Defecation Free (ODF) Plus status, where everyone uses a toilet, and every village has access to solid and liquid waste management.

Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen Phase-II:

  • It emphasizes the sustainability of achievements under phase I and to provide adequate facilities for Solid/Liquid & plastic Waste Management (SLWM) in rural India.
  • Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (G) Phase-I, more than 10 crore individual toilets have been constructed since the launch of the mission; as a result, rural areas in all the States have declared themselves ODF as on 2nd October, 2019.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

December 2023