New Delhi: Experts and environmentalists are hopeful that on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman will present a Budget with more funds allocated to the Government’s flagship scheme – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan with its focus on solid waste management and faecal sludge management.
Last year, the Finance Minister placed Swachh Bharat Abhiyan under the ‘Aspirational India’ pillar, and announced an allocation of Rs.12,300 crores for the financial year (FY) 2020-2021 for the scheme. This was down from the total allocation of Rs.12,644 crores for the campaign in the year 2019-20, which itself was around Rs. 5,199 crores lower than the budget allocated in 2018-19.
Here’s what is on the Budget 2021 wishlist of experts and environmentalists for a swachh and swasth India:
Increased Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Funds In Budget 2021
Talking about the overall expectations from Budget 2021 for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, V Srinivas Chary, Member, National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance said,
We are super optimistic about the greater attention and fund allocation towards Swachh Bharat Mission, which is about creating healthy and liveable cities across India. I am 200 per cent sure that this time the government will definitely increase the funds for Swachh Bharat Mission despite health and vaccine being the priority now, but as COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world the importance of good sanitation and hygiene practices, I am hopeful the government too will look at the sector with same importance.
Greater Focus On Solid Waste And Faecal Sludge Management
Further talking about the mission and how it has become a Jan Andolan or people’s movement over the past few years, Mr Chary added,
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan gained a lot of attention, courtesy the efforts made by the government. However, the big challenge now is to take advantage of the gains made from 2014 to 2019 and complete the loop. For that we need to look beyond toilets and focus on faecal waste management and waste water management.
On the other hand, Meera Mehta, Executive Director of the Center for Water and Sanitation said,
India needs to look at building proper sewer system for all the cities with the greater focus on faecal sludge and septage management. Because if we want to achieve full sanitation, we need to make sure the faecal sludge is properly treated. There are many states and cities in India that have shown that it is actually possible to spruce up the faecal sludge management by introducing proper desludging and building up faecal sludge treatment facilities. This is very much doable and we expect that this should be part of Swachh Bharat 2.0.
Reiterating that India needs to move ahead and focus majorly on solid waste management and faecal sludge management, Dinesh Mehta, Member, National Faecal Sludge & Septage Management Alliance said,
Now is the time, when we need to ask, ‘Toilet ke baad kya….’ (What after toilet construction?) Constructing toilets is one thing but taking the waste out from the toilet into the treatment facility is another. And that is what Faecal Sludge Management is all about and that is what we should focus now in order to meet all our Sustainable Development Goals.
Focus On Health Of Sanitation Workers And Provide Them With Proper Protective Gears
To prioritise safety of sanitation workers, Mr Mehta added,
One of the major programmes that the government has launched recently was manholes to machineholes, which means all the cleaning of septage tanks or sewer lines will be done by machines and there will be no manual operation. But, I think, the need is to now look at providing them with better equipments and protective gears that overall uplifts their status and also protects their health. The government needs to make wearing of personal protective gears mandatory for all the sanitation workers and also ensure they are delivered to them. Secondly, the government should look at providing the sanitation workers with the facilities of health insurance and it should be the part of the funds allocation in the budget.
Policy Level Changes For Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2.0
Highlighting some of the policy level changes for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2.0 that focuses on solid waste and faecal sludge management, Mr Chary added,
I think, just like we had a mass behavioural campaign for building and using a toilet, we need the same approach for solid waste management. We need to teach people from scratch the basics of waste management and then ensure the waste from the toilets and household is getting managed well. A proper system or authority should be kept in place to ensure the smooth implementation.
A Greater Need For Individual Toilets
Talking about COVID-19 and how it has put sanitation on the forefront, Ms Mehta highlighted the need for India to move from constructing community toilets, especially in urban India and focus on building more and more of individual toilets. She said,
In last one year, COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for having good hygiene practices and sanitation and has put on the forefront the need for having more individual toilets across the country. Though, we have achieved a lot when it comes to toilet construction, but, I think, now the emphasis should be given on constructing more of individual toilets rather than community toilets for the basic reason of following hygienic practices when it comes to sanitation.
Sharing example of the city Mumbai and how more the 25 per cent population depends on community toilets, Dinesh Mehta added,
We need to reduce the dependence of people on community toilets and instead build individual toilets and that is what we think will be the major challenge for us in the coming few years. And this is not the story of Mumbai alone, there are many cities within Maharashtra that need the same focus.
Talking about the targets for Swachh Bharat 2.0 and how this budget should be a step forward, Meera Mehta signed off by saying,
We should be looking at making our cities, states cleaner and faecal sludge free by 2030, just like we had targets for making cities and states ODF by 2019.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.
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