New Delhi: Did you know, 3.5 billion people globally continue to live without safe toilets and 419 million people still go to the toilet in the open, practising open defecation? A “safe toilet” is shorthand for a safely managed sanitation system, which means a toilet not shared with other households, that either treats or disposes of human waste on site, stores it safely to be emptied and treated off-site, or connects to a functioning sewer and treatment plant, states United Nations Water.
However, the world is seriously off track to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030. According to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP) 2023, at the current rates of progress, 3 billion people will still be living without safe toilets, 2 billion without safe drinking water, and 1.4 billion without basic hygiene services in 2030.
World Toilet Day 2023
World Toilet Day, celebrated annually on November 19, is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. It has been an annual United Nations Observance since 2013, but was first celebrated in 2001 by the World Toilet Organization. The UN stepped in to help break taboos around toilets and make sanitation for all a global development priority.
With less than seven years left to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, World Toilet Day 2023 focusses on “accelerating change”. It urges the world to take faster action and get back on track to achieve SDG 6. It calls on governments and big institutions to deliver on their promises.
For the same, Hummingbird has been chosen as the symbol of World Toilet Day 2023. A popular ancient story describes a Hummingbird carrying droplets of water in her beak to help douse a forest fire. The UN Water states,
She (hummingbird) is a powerful symbol of taking action – no matter how small – to tackle a big problem.
We can all be like the hummingbird this #WorldToiletDay.
Make a commitment to do what you can to help solve the global sanitation crisis.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
— UN-Water (@UN_Water) November 13, 2023
How Can You Accelerate Change
Be a Hummingbird and help solve the sanitation crisis. In a campaign factsheet, UN Water has called to commit to sanitation action. This includes:
a) Breaking taboos by talking about the critical connection between toilets, water and menstruation.
b) Flush safe: Fix leaking water and waste pipes, empty full septic tanks and report dumping of sludge.
c) Don’t put food waste, oils, medicines and chemicals down the toilet or drains.
d) Write to your elected representatives and build pressure about budgets for improving water and sanitation facilities.
Sanitation In India
According to UNICEF, In 2015, nearly half of India’s population of around 568 million people suffered the indignity of defecating in fields, forests, bodies of water, or other public spaces due to a lack of access to toilets. India alone accounted for 90 per cent of the people in South Asia and half of the 1.2 billion people in the world that defecated in the open.
However, over the years, India has made rapid progress in providing sanitation facilities and putting an end to the practice of open defecation across the country. The number of people defecating in the open in India has reduced significantly by an estimated 450 million people (2019).
India has been working towards safe sanitation for decades. In 1986, Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), the first nationwide centrally sponsored programme was launched focussing exclusively on sanitation in rural areas. Later in 1999, the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) with a vision to eradicate open defecation by 2017 was launched followed by Nirmal Gram Puraskar, Sampoorna Swachata Andolana Scheme and others to strengthen the TSC.
In 2012, the centre launched another sanitation programme – Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) with an aim to provide 100 per cent access to toilets in rural households by 2022. But the programme was ineffective and didn’t bear desired results.
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government repackaged the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan into Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and introduced two sub-missions – Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). The goal was to achieve a clean and ODF India by the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 2019.
At the start of the campaign, to make India ODF, the target was set to construct 67 lakh individual household toilets and 5 lakh community toilets in urban areas. Also, for rural India, where the sanitation coverage was a mere 38.70 per cent, the aim was to bring it to 100 per cent.
The target of SBM has been achieved, according to the government, which claims rural India is ODF with the construction of over 10 crore toilets. In urban areas, 63.04 lakh toilets have been constructed against the target of 58.99 lakhs. 4,355 cities are ODF.
While we may have achieved the target of constructing toilets, the key is to ensure they are used judiciously by everyone. It’s time to focus on sustaining the efforts and focus on proper waste management to capitalise on the successes of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in increasing the toilet coverage and improve people’s access to proper sanitation facility.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post 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 will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that 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 the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.