Sanitation - The hygienic means of promoting health - Indian Journal of Public Health

There is compelling evidence that sanitation brings the greatest public health returns on investment among all development interventions, the article says.

This article published in the Indian Journal of Public Health highlights the importance of sanitation as hygienic means of dealing with health of populations and presents the history and the definition of sanitation and highlights the sanitation situation in the context of India.  India stands second among the worst places in the world for sanitation after China. Millions of Indians currently lack access to adequate sanitation and are forced to dispose off their excreta in unimproved and unsanitary conditions. Those who suffer from lack of this basic need, also tend to be victims of poverty, ill health and an overall poor quality of life.

There is compelling evidence that sanitation brings the greatest public health returns on investment among all development interventions. Government figures claim that India is all set to achieve MDG 7 target 10, which aims to halve the population with access to pure drinking water and basic sanitation. However, a huge number of India's population still remains uncovered. Also the coverage announced by governmental figures focuses on infrastructure, but there is no information on access and actual use. Independent studies on use of sanitation facilities  show a much lower coverage. 

Rapid urbanisation is also putting more pressure on the already stressed urban sanitation systems. Slums are very rarely connected to the cities sanitation infrastructure and the sanitation situation is deplorable. It is increasingly recognised that health risks in urban areas are often greater than in dispersed rural areas. Poor water quality and lack of urban sanitation in urban areas while usage and lack of coverage are emerging as challenges in rural areas in India.

The article argues that the absence of supportive policies to provide the basis for planning and implementation sanitation programmes is a missing link for improving coverage on a large scale in the context of India. National level sanitation policy frameworks, within which the national, state, municipal government agencies and the private non profit sectors operate have not been adequate.

The article ends by arguing that there is a need to have good sanitation policies to help create and enable an environment that encourages access to and use of sustainable sanitation services, as also for the replication and scaling up of successful pilot programmes. There is a need to implement these policies through four types of policy instruments:

  • Laws to provide the overall framework and regulations
  • Economic measures
  • Information and education programmes
  • Assignments of rights and responsibilities for providing services

Download the article here







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