ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Sanitation Challenge

A sense of mission and urgency is needed if urban sanitation is to advance.

The United Nations declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation in view of the 2.6 billion people in the world who lack even basic sanitation facilities and the deadly con-sequences this has for their health and human dignity. India (where 7.5% of reported deaths are sanitation- and water-related) has been grappling with the problem of sanitation coverage, especially for the poor, for some years now. The Central Rural Sanitation Programme, started in 1986, metamorphosed into the Total Sanitation Cam-paign (TSC) in 1999 to ensure community participation. It aims at eradicating open defecation in rural areas by 2012, no doubt be-cause a majority of the population lives in villages. However, slum conditions and the population density in cities ensure that lack of sanitation coverage affects the urban poor more drastically.

Though the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission targets 100% sanitation coverage in urban areas, it was only in October 2008 that the government came out with the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP). Surprisingly, it has not received the kind of media and public attention that it merits, given the state of urban sanitation in the country. The NUSP says that 7.87% of urban households defecate in the open, 8.13% use community latrines, 19.49% share latrines, 18.5% have no access to drainage, and 39.8% are connected to open drains. It aims at community participation, raising awareness, changing behavioural attitudes, making our cit-ies open-defecation free, and the safe disposal of solid and liquid human wastes with special emphasis on the poor and women. The states are expected to prepare their own strategies within the next two years; cities are to prepare model city sanitation plans, and a multi-stakeholder city sanitation task force will be responsible for achieving the targets set. Significantly, it directs that 20% of the funds must be set aside for the urban poor. And on the lines of the TSC’s Nirmal Gram Puraskar, cities with the best performance will receive awards. As usual, it is the implementation and the commit-ment of the implementing agencies which will be the crucial factors

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