Rural Sanitation

The Central Rural Sanitation Programme, which was started in 1986, was one of India’s first efforts to provide safe sanitation in rural areas. This programme focussed mainly on providing subsidies to people to construct sanitation facilities. However, a study done by the government in 1996-97 showed that it was more important to raise awareness about sanitation as a whole rather than to just provide subsidies for construction. This understanding marked the first shift in the programme. In 1999, a restructured Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was initiated to create supply-led sanitation by promoting local sanitary marts and a range of technological options.

The rural sanitation campaign has the following as its objectives:

  • Accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas.
  • Generate a push from the people to get facilities rather than expect the Government to do it (demand-led promotion).
  • Focus on intensive education and awareness campaigns to ensure that people understand the need for safe sanitation.
  • Take the scheme beyond rural households to rural schools and nursery schools. Here again, the emphasis was placed on promoting good hygiene practices.
  • Promote cost-effective and appropriate technologies.
  • Through all the above, improve the health and quality of life in rural areas.

The last modification of the scheme happened in 2012. It was restructured and renamed as the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. With an intent to transform India to "Nirmal Bharat", the scheme's revised target for reaching total sanitation was changed from 2012 to 2022. 

Understanding rural sanitation dataState of rural sanitation in India - Progress and performance - Data visualisation tool by Arghyam

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation publishes data related to the rural sanitation scheme on its website. The State of Sanitation Project is an effort to create simple tools that will demystify large datasets and also compare it to other relevant datasets.

View the State of sanitation in India - Data visualisation tool.

From outlays to outcomes: understanding the status of rural sanitation data

The census 2011 data on rural sanitation coverage was a reality check to the existing understanding that the government’s efforts at rural sanitation were moving rapidly towards achieving universal coverage. 

Below are some key lessons that emerged:

  • A difference in the total number of rural households as counted by the census 2011 and the government scheme – while in 2001, the difference was 0.14 lakhs, in 2011, the difference had grown to 884.03 lakhs.
  • A huge difference in the number of rural households with toilets. According to census 2011 data, only 30.7% of rural households had access to toilets in 2011. According to rural sanitation scheme data the number was considerably larger at 79.9%.

Some of these differences can be accounted for by the fact that the sanitation scheme achievement number was calculated on household numbers that were lesser than the 2011 household number. When corrected for this, the total achievement fell to 65.7 percent, which was still significantly higher than the number reported by the census 2011.

Based on these calculations India will have to spend anywhere between 9 – 19 times of its expenditure up to 2011 (Rs. 6140 crore) in order to achieve universal coverage of household toilets – which is just one component of the government scheme.

Download and read the entire study: From outlays to outcomes - The state of rural sanitation data in India - A report by Accountability Initiative and Arghyam (2013).

Download rural sanitation fact sheets for all states of India.

Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research carried out the research for the State of Sanitation Project. Arghyam supported the effort.

About the State of Sanitation Project

The goal of the State of Sanitation project is to understand the success of the government’s rural sanitation scheme from the lenses of coverage, equity, accountability, efficiency and health.State of Sanitation

Open defecation in rural India remains a problem that perplexes policy makers and civil society alike. India has the largest number of people who practice open defecation (626 million) and the most number of child deaths due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene conditions compared to the rest of the world.

While access to toilets is by itself an important aspect that needs to be understood, it is not enough to reach the goal of total sanitation. Indeed, India’s rural sanitation scheme which was devised in 1986 and restructured in 2012 as the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) acknowledges this. Its goal is not only universal toilet coverage by 2022, but also improving health and providing privacy and dignity to women, with the overall goal of improving the quality of life of people living in rural areas.

Aims of the State of Sanitation project: Multiple agencies have assessed the status of the rural sanitation programme and have quantified its benefits over time. However, there have been few attempts to provide an online, concurrent monitoring mechanism to track the status of both the implementation of the scheme and the larger benefits from the scheme.

To this end, the project will:The State of Sanitation Project is supported and run by Arghyam

  • Design monitoring tools – this will include:
      • Online tools that help demystify government data and provide overlays between multiple data sets relevant to sanitation. These tools will be opened up to civil society and provide context to the large data sets.
      • Participatory assessment tools that will attempt to qualify how the scheme is working and issues in implementation, usage and achievement of the rural sanitation scheme’s goals.
  • Identify best practices and gaps in implementation – this will include:
      • Ground verification of best practices and issues.
      • Focussed efforts to document good practices and problems.

For more queries or feedback, please contact us.

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Building toilets alone does not solve India’s sanitation issues. A research paper says what more can be done.

It is a fact that constructing toilets alone cannot ensure total sanitation. The real challenge lies in getting people to use them. While treating fecal sludge and disposing it are largely urban concerns, modifying behaviour and motivating people to abandon open defecation are considered rural sanitation challenges.

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Pipara village in the parched Bundelkhand region stands out for its uninterrupted water supply. The village has their women to thank for it.

The cracks on the parched land of Bundelkhand are waiting for the monsoon to quench the thirst of its arid landscape. Despite the wide-spread drought here, Pipara, one of the villages in the region, stands apart as the only one that has not run completely dry. 

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A fellowship placed young people in villages for a year, implementing good water & sanitation practices.

Open drainHirehandigola village in Gadag district of North Karnataka is an unsurprising picture of rural India. Hot, dry and dusty, it is populated by a largely lingayat community.

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Efforts have been on to spread the message of menstrual hygiene. But we are not even half way into achieving it fully

The female menstrual cycle is the intricate work of hormones. Usually, girls start their cycle anywhere between 12 and 17 years of age when a series of changes prepare their uterus for child-bearing. The body produces the hormone oestrogen which stimulates the growth of a protective lining inside the uterus to cushion the baby in preparation of pregnancy every month.  When it does not happen, the amount of oestrogen secreted by the body decreases and the protective uterine layer breaks, resulting in the discharge of blood and tissue, via the vagina. And voila, the period has arrives!

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This study in urban and rural areas of Vellore, Tamil Nadu found that seasonal fluctuations had an effect on water quality and diarrhoeal disease risk.

Access to safe drinking water and diarrhoeal diseases in India

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Thanks to the successful implementation of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) scheme, villagers began to believe in collective action and community development.

Since India became independent in 1947, the central and state governments have introduced various rural development schemes, and have been trying to get them to converge. While this effort hasn't been as impactful on a large scale, there are some success stories. Sarda Panchayat in Sambalpur, Odisha is one.   

 

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India needs to answer the important question of whether rural India can and will embrace toilet culture, and that must drive its colossal plan to rid the country of open defecation.

India has come a long way since the days of its rigid top-down Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), which had minimal community participation. First it was the Total Sanitation Campaign which then became the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, and most recently, the Swachh Bharat Mission. While the language, signature and branding has differed over time, the basic idea remains the same – improving sanitation and ridding the country of open defecation.

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A study found that toilet use was higher in households that had a high standard of living, higher educational levels among women and that were located in urban areas.

India continues to have the highest number of people defecating out in the open according to recent figures by the World Health Organisation with only 32.7 % of people in rural areas having access to toilets (Census 2011).

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Low-cost sanitary napkins can start a revolution, but only when factors like access to toilet, clean water, privacy for changing and sustainable disposal of used products is considered.

Menstrual hygiene management continues to be a challenge for rural women in India and many women are forced to resort to unhygienic ways of managing menstruation thus affecting their health and well-being. The paper titled 'Menstrual management and low cost sanitary napkins' published in the Economic and Political Weekly, says that the recent advent of low-cost sanitary napkin-making technology, which has been considered as a boon, is being propogated by a number of governmental and non-governmen

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Experts opine on whether the water and sanitation sector got a meaningful budget push this year.

Is this year’s budget a mere continuation of the trajectory set last year in social sectors like drinking water, sanitation, employment guarantee and agriculture? Is the budgetary outlay for urban development responsive towards the drinking water and sanitation needs of vulnerable sections of society such as the urban poor and women? Does the budget hold appeal for India's rural poor?

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