Sanitation for All - sanitary behaviors are central to making significant progress in sanitation


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Sanitation for All - sanitary behaviors are central to making significant progress in sanitation

Sanitation for All

Some recent news, blogs and comments have made not only an interesting reading in efforts to reach sanitation to wider audience, but also have highlighted shortcomings and drawbacks in approach to sustainable sanitation.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech announced a new campaign to eliminate open defecation by 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth in 2019. He noted: “Has it ever pained us that our mothers and sisters have to defecate in the open?”

He also announced that all schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. That is, no doubt, a very important point. Since, I have visited school toilets in the rural areas of Sindh, Pakistan, I must hasten to add that simply building of toilets for communities and in schools would be a failure, unless the toilets are maintained properly. This means some section of the municipal government in case of communities, and the school management, are made responsible for proper upkeep of the toilets. In addition, there are two important adjuncts to this: one is the behavioral change, both in rural communities and among the school children; and the sanitation marketing.

The Indian PM also said (and this is worth noting): "I call upon the corporate sector also to give priority to the provision of toilets in schools with your expenditure under Corporate Social Responsibility. This target should be finished within one year with the help of state governments and on the next 15th August, we should be in a firm position to announce that there is no school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls.”

Continuing failure of sanitation scenarios in rural and peri-urban towns of Sindh has lead me to believe that, perhaps, it is beyond government’s domain to improve sanitation in rural and urban areas, and this suggest that corporate sector’s help is needed to provide momentum to sanitation programs and plans.

Andrés Hueso, Policy Analyst at WaterAid, has also voiced the concerns that I have referred to above, in his blog: Will India's new Prime Minister free the country from open defecation? He makes a important concluding statement: “Modi’s commitment to sanitation is the required first step to make India open defecation free. However, for this sanitary revolution to materialize and yield positive results, he will have to reshape the institutional setting of the campaign and move away from its sole focus on building toilets, making sure the promotion of sanitary behaviors becomes central.”

It is true that sanitary behaviors are central to making significant progress in sanitation.

Jan Eliasson’s blog, circulated by Cor Dietvorst, under the caption of “Sanitation for all: The MDGs and beyond,” emphasize the importance of involving businesses in sanitation. He says: “We also need businesses to step up investments in improving sanitation, and civil society organizations must continue to monitor progress on the ground so the world has evidence of what is working and where.” He has a new campaign website to end open defecation. This is

Jan Eliasson, by virtue of holding an important UN office (he is the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations), is well-placed to put sanitation agenda in top gear. However, as his blog would show, sanitation efforts are concentrated in Africa. South Asia has been neglected.

Finally, there is an Eddy Perez blog on: “How and Why Countries are Changing to Reach Universal Access in Rural Sanitation by 2030.” Eddy Perez is, as most would know, a lead sanitation specialist for the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank. While Eddy also supports the involvement of private sector in sanitation, when he says: “Governments are partnering with the private sector to increase the availability of sanitation products and services that respond to consumer preferences and their willingness and ability to pay for them and are also working to improve the adequacy of arrangements for financing the programmatic costs,” Eddy makes out a case of an aspect, that perhaps merit discussions. Eddy says: “Using largely small scale project approaches that have failed to deliver sustainable sanitation service delivery – especially for the poor -- most countries have not yet achieved the more modest MDG sanitation goals.”

While situation may vary from country to country, if I were to develop a strategy of providing sanitation in rural areas in Sindh, I would go for projects at a scale, which conform to the requirements of small rural village – meaning small-scale sanitation projects.

Eddy seems to favour at-scale projects when he says: “So what are countries doing? Building on evidence from at-scale pilots that serve as policy learning laboratories, governments are establishing a shared vision and strategy for rural sanitation among key government and development partner stakeholders and are creating high level political will at national and regional levels.” There is no doubt that for large cities, like Karachi, at-scale sanitation projects would be appropriate. To dismiss small-scale sanitation projects for rural areas is something that I may not go for.

F H Mughal
F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan

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