Blinkers off: Cities given 2 year timeline for planning sanitation news
13 November 2008

Mumbai: States and cities in India have a deadline two years from now to plan out their sanitation strategies, as laid out by the national urban sanitation policy unveiled by the government.

M Ramachandran, secretary to the ministry of urban development, has urged states to initiate the process of drafting individual state sanitation strategies, taking into account their own particular circumstances and to focus mainly on achieving targets and not on blindly creating infrastructure. 

Ramachandran was speaking at a workshop, organised by the ministry of urban development, to formally launch the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP). He said that the NUSP provides the necessary framework to states to approach urban sanitation in an integrated manner. 

States such as Maharashtra and West Bengal are said to be leading the initiative, and are in the final stages of having an approved state sanitation strategy. Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh have also begun the process of developing a state sanitation strategy, he added.

The ministry of urban development would provide financial assistance to help prepare the strategies, and is said to have allocated about Rs50,000 crore for the purpose under the Eleventh Plan. Implementation of the strategies would be through the public-private partnership (PPP) route, with finance coming from plan funds and multilateral assistance, Ramachandran said. 

Lack of access to sanitation for many households arises from a variety of constraints, including economic backwardness, lack of tenure or space, forcing a large number of households to the continued indignity of open defecation. This has had considerable impacts on the health, well-being and dignity especially of women and children. Lack of hygiene education compounds the problem, and results in far-reaching health consequences for all urban dwellers. Through this policy, the government is looking to transform all the towns and cities of India into totally sanitised, healthy and liveable spaces. 

The policy is looking at creating open defecation-free cities, and says recommends community planned and managed toilets wherever possible, while emphasising solutions for disposal that enable recycling of waste. The ministry has commenced its first survey on sanitation that would produce the first ever rating of urban areas on the basis of sanitation parameters.

As per to the policy, cities would have to form a task force headed by the mayor, with participation of various stakeholders, and also suggests that city sanitation ambassadors be appointed, who could be celebrities, to help in policy implementation.

Data from the ministry shows that unsafe disposal of waste is to the extent of 46 to 82 per cent in India, implying that even where there are toilets, disposal leaves much to be desired on account of ill-maintained septic tanks, leading to unhygienic conditions and in a number of cases, contamination of groundwater. Of the 54 million households in urban India, 26 per cent do not have toilets or access to individual sanitation, while almost 50 million people have to defecate in the open. Ramachandran said that around 75 per cent of the available surface water is polluted with 80 per cent of the pollution being contributed by sewage alone.


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Blinkers off: Cities given 2 year timeline for planning sanitation