Sustainable Sanitation in the Cities

Urban Sanitation in India

• The Census (2011) revealed that 12.6% of household in Urban India were practicing Open Defecation.
• A bigger cause of worry was that 75% of fresh water resources used for drinking purpose was contaminated with sewage contributing to 60% of total pollution load.
The Cost of Poor Sanitation:
• As per a UNICEF report (2011), almost 90% of child deaths from diarrhoeal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation, or inadequate hygiene.
• In addition to the impact on the communicable diseases, better sanitation leads to reduction in occurrence of low birth weight in babies, spontaneous abortions and occurrences of birth defects.
• It has significant impact on social and economic development, particularly in developing countries.
For example, an independent study conducted by UNICEF in India in August 2017 established that every Indian family will save about Rs. 50,000 annually if open defecation is eliminated.

Journey to Sustainable Urban Sanitation:

• On 2 October, 2019, Urban India became Open defecation Free and this feat was achieved in only a short span of five years.
• MoHUA has been implementing various missions such as Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), AMRUT,
Smart Cities Mission, NERUDP – all of which address the issue of urban sanitation.
• MoHUA has also partnered with Google to upload and make available on Google maps all the public and community toilets in cities so that citizens and visitors are able to easily locate these facilities in their vicinity.
A Graded Approach to Scaling Up and Sustaining Urban Sanitation
• GoI launched the ODF protocol, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country where an independent third party would certify a city as ODF on satisfactorily complying with the protocol requirements.
• Moreover, in order to prevent slippage of ODF status, the ODF certificate was made valid only for 6 months.
• Despite these efforts, cities faced different challenges in the form of households with space constraints, residents of slum colonies or any floating population respond to nature’s call.
• For this, ODF+ Protocol was launched with the requirement for third party certification as the ODF protocol.


• Definition – Not a single person is found defecating/urinating in the open and all community and public toilets are functional and well maintained.
• Indicative conditions – Toilets constructed in every house with space; Community toilets within 500 m (max.) without space; public toilets within 1Km (max.) in commercial areas/public places.
• The next level of challenges faced was while toilets were now functional and being used, so that OD and open urination were curbed, what was happening with the faecal sludge being discharged from these toilets?
• Most of the faecal sludge was ending up as open discharge in fields and water bodies, thereby posing even greater damage to the environment compared to OD.
• Hence, next endeavor at sustaining the sanitation impacts was to launch the ODF++ protocols to address the issue of complete faecal sludge management.
• It involved scheduled emptying of septic tanks, safe containment and transportation, and finally safe processing of faecal sludge and septage.


• As on date, we have 739 cities already under certified ODF+ and 292 cities certified ODF++. Under AMRUT mission, significant progress has been made in Faecal Sludge management coverage with 637 projects already completed in Sewerage and Septage Management.
• While the faecal sludge was now being managed safely, the waste water (grey water – from Kitchen; Black water – from toilets) were flowing into open drains and polluting our water bodies.
• Hence, the Water Plus protocol has been launched to ensure that no untreated waste water is released into environment or water bodies.
Swachh Survekshan – A Tool for Mission Monitoring and Governance
• The Swachh Survekshan (SS) is an innovative survey conducted by MoHUA under SBM-U, to rank cities on various sanitation and cleanliness parameters.
Addressing the Challenge of Manual Scavenging and Hazardous Entry
• Various laws and regulatory reforms have been enacted by the govt. to ensure that the practice of manual scavenging is eliminated comprehensively.
• MoHUA has been constantly endeavouring to ensure that hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is completely eliminated and even when manual entry is unavoidable, to ensure that it be done with proper safety precautions.
Other Key Enablers: Leveraging Technology, Intensive Behaviour Change & Capacity Building of ULBs
• Leveraging technology and ‘smart solutions to widen outreach (e.g. Google mapping of public toilets,swachhta app etc.)
• Robust online MIS and portal for real time data capture
• Swachh Manch for large scale citizen engagement
• Behaviour change initiatives (engagement of celebrities as ambassadors, mass media audio/video campaign)
• Continuous capacity building of ULBs

Way Forward:

• The issue of maintenance of the community/public toilets needs to be strengthened further to ensure that the toilets do not fall into disuse.
• Similarly, the issue of safe containment, transportation and disposal of faecal sludge and septage from toilets, as also the grey and black water from households and establishments need to be strengthened further.
• There is need to institutionalizing the concept of Swachhta, so that the holistic impacts from safe sanitation are achieved in line with our SDG commitments.
• We will now need to focus on Sustainable Sanitation and Waste Water Treatment. All these need to be planned and implemented under the overarching principle of ‘Swachhata se Sampannata’.
• Additionally, an enabling environment would need to be created through conducive policy support and reforms, leveraging technology for Mission implementation, robust and real-time, data-driven monitoring supported by 3rd party verifications, capacity building of municipal staff and private sector participation.

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