A Clean (Sampoorna Swachh) India
Towards maintaining an open defecation-free and clean environment and managing solid and liquid wastes efficiently
Ensuring Sustainability of Sanitation Services
On 2nd October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India celebrated the end of the first phase of the five-year Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), the world’s most extensive ever programme aimed at eliminating open defecation.
The country had the remarkable achievement of providing toilet access at home to over 105 million additional rural households in just five years, which meant that over 500 million people across 630,000 villages had the opportunity to be pulled out of the practice of open defecation. This feat is something that all can be proud of, and UNICEF is pleased to be a partner in the effort.
While keeping the success in view, there is, however, a need to ensure equity and sustainability in sanitation services and to leave no one behind. Work towards changing behaviours and beliefs and addressing myths around toilets remain crucial to ensuring sustained open defecation-free (ODF) status in all communities across India.
This makes it imperative that adequate follow-up activities are put in place once a community is declared open defecation-free (ODF) and to ensure that households that have newly embraced the social norm of toilet use do not regress into their former practice of open defecation. Consistent government focus through vibrant flagship programmes, sustained budgetary provisions, institutional strengthening within Government; participatory planning; involvement of local governments in infrastructure creation and operation and maintenance activities, professionalization of services, and sensitizing the rightsholder remain priorities on the way forward and are all aimed towards achieving the Safe sanitation as the Sustainable Development Goal 6.2 strives for.
According to the State of the World’s Sanitation Report (2020) by UNICEF and WHO, over half the world’s population (around 4.2 billion people), despite the progress being made in sanitation, use services and display behaviour that leave human waste untreated, threatening human and environmental health. This hampers child development and social and economic progress, making the fulfilment of child rights and good physical, mental and social well-being unattainable in the absence of safe sanitation. Plastic waste and stagnant wastewater are also significant issues that are affecting communities.
Phase II of the Swachh Bharat Mission seeks to create ODF Plus villages – villages that sustain the gains made under phase I to ensure the ODF status of communities and improve the general cleanliness of rural and urban centres through solid and liquid waste management.
Solid and liquid waste management includes the management of bio-degradable waste such as human, cattle, agricultural and food waste, and non -biodegradable waste such as plastic, metals, e-waste, etc. Another vital area that is included and requires significant attention is managing and awareness of menstrual waste.
Getting thousands of gram panchayats, villages, towns and cities to reach this ODF Plus milestone, calls for decentralized planning, investment in human resources, sufficient budgetary provisioning, and an excellent supervisory, management and support structure involving multiple stakeholders. This also ensures that sustained interventions, including behaviour change activities, are undertaken at the community level even after the initial declaration of ODF or ODF Plus status.
UNICEF, on its part, has been supporting the Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural) phase I since 2014, and now again under phase II, working with the Government to strategize and support ways forward for rural sanitation programming in the country.
In addition to supporting each of the technical areas mentioned earlier, UNICEF is also promoting critical areas of handwashing with soap, especially important in the COVID-19 pandemic context, providing options for managing solid and liquid waste safely, addressing the often-under-addressed issue of child faeces, and investing in climate-resilient systems that can withstand natural disasters, prioritizing behaviour change communication at the community level, and promoting sanitation in institutional settings and public places.
UNICEF also supports addressing issues around the quality of construction, sustainability of sanitary services, and the aspects of safely managed sanitation. For this, effective social and behavioural change communication approaches must be in tandem with the service delivery to ensure that families are provided quality services.
UNICEF is further supporting the Government of India in rolling out a massive capacity-building effort aimed at enhancing the capacities of rural local government representatives pan-India. The support is provided by training them to invest in sustainable sanitation interventions to build and operate sanitation projects, converge the efforts with water supply programming, and promote gender-inclusive and climate resilient sanitation services in the villages.
As a longstanding partner to the Government of India, UNICEF extends technical support at the national level and to 16 state governments in planning through developing district-wide ODF Plus plans and supports with implementation models that incorporate behaviour change messaging for generating demand for waste management systems. UNICEF strives to ensure that the piloted rollout models adopt a strong equity dimension to prioritize the most vulnerable communities and are risk-informed, especially in disaster-prone districts. UNICEF supports monitoring systems to help gather real-time data that informs the Government’s policymaking on sanitation.
As part of our support for safely managed sanitation in urban areas, UNICEF works with the central, state and city Government to support capacity building and social and behaviour change communication efforts. This includes developing the national frameworks for capacity building and behaviour change communication for garbage-free cities and supporting its rollout in priority states.
UNICEF is looking forward to working with individuals, agencies and corporates for collaborative work on its sanitation programme. We are committed to supporting the world to realize Sustainable Development Goal – 6 by 2030.