No toilets for half of India?
India may have been the first country in the world to have toilets and a proper sanitation system (Place: Lothal, year: 2500 BC, Indus valley civilization) but today we are the second worst in the world! A survey by WaterAid (international NGO) has ranked India in second place on the list of the world’s worst places for sanitation. Let’s not find comfort in the fact that we are not last on the list, that China is. After all South Asian countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan are 4th and 7th respectively and these countries are poorer than us.
WaterAid says that only about 15 percent of rural Indians have access to a toilet and that overall (rural and urban) only about 47 percent of the population has sanitation facilities. Indian government figures say it’s 70 percent (Rural: 48 per cent. Urban: 93 per cent). WaterAid clarifies that their figures show the infrastructure on the ground and not actual usage by people…I guess they would think poorly of places like the chawls of Mumbai where 6-7 families can share a toilet. Anyway, WaterAid does not agree with the government figures for urban India . They feel that the sanitation facilities in urban India have been overestimated because of:
…the large population of slum dwelling and unaccounted for urban populations and their exclusion from formal urban sanitation and sewerage systems…
Update: In the housing census conducted in June 2000, which studied houses, household amenities and assets – as many as 81.8 per cent rural households in Maharashtra and 41.9 per cent urban households do not have toilets. As many as 39.2 per cent households have no drainage lines…but in all this, 24.7 per cent rural households and 70.5 per cent urban households own television sets! However, though the study was conducted in 2000, even today, a city like Pune has just 352 public urinals for a 30-lakh population.
India wants to be open defecation-free by 2012 and has increased the funds for the Total Sanitation Campaign by 43 per cent from Rs 7.40 billion in 2006-07 to Rs 10.6 billion in 2007-08. But is it possible? It is estimated that 600 out of 900 million people defecate openly.
The World Toilet Summit (seventh such summit) to find low-cost sanitation methods was held in India in October, and it’s likely that some strategy to solve the problem in India was discussed but details are not available.
Price to pay
Without basic hygiene, civic authorities will always be in constant fear of epidemics and mortality rates (more so amongst children) will continue to be high:
In the developing world, infant deaths, lost work days, and missed school are estimated to have an economic cost of around $38 billion year, with sanitation accounting for 92% of this value.
At every street corner we have built temples, not toilets. A pee is more important than a prayer. It is certainly more compelling than a prayer.
Physical infrastructure isn’t enough
All said and done, maintenance is more important than infrastructure. Toilets in India even in tourist spots are not properly maintained and as for public toilets – they stink, if they exist at all.
The BMC (Mumbai Municipal Corporation) has got this bright idea of getting a self cleaning toilet which can be programmed to automatically clean up after the user has left. Each piece will cost about Rs 4-5 lakhs and the advertisements on it are to pay for the cost and maintenance. But what will the BMC do when people mess up outside of the pot? It’s a common practice here. And it’s not as if people don’t know how to use toilets…they just don’t care.
(The first picture is by me and the second is from Mumbai Mirror and linked to the original)