The Colombo declaration of 4th South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) held in Colombo in April 2012, states that the sanitation and hygiene situation in South Asia remains at a crisis point. Compare the facts and this rings true – with the sanitation coverage in rural areas a mere 32.7 per cent as per the 2011 Census. Although it is heartening to see a rise – from 21.9 per cent in 2001, the pace is indeed slow. Also the Target 7(c), set under Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 7, seeks to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (based on 1990 data) which works out to approximately 55 per cent. It seems a remote possibility that India would be able to cover lost ground in the next few years.
The Government of India administers the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), a comprehensive programme to facilitate states to ensure sanitation facilities in rural areas with the main objective of eradicating the practice of open defecation and ensuring a clean environment. To accelerate the progress of sanitation in rural areas under NBA, the Government has adopted the strategy of phased saturation approach for creation of ‘Nirmal Grams’. The provision of incentive for individual household latrines has been extended to cover identified categories of above poverty line (APL) households restricted to SCs/STs, small and marginal farmers, landless labourers with homestead, physically handicapped and women headed households in addition to below poverty line (BPL) households. Convergence with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) has also been mandated in terms of work, person days for construction of sanitation facilities. The component of Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) has been strengthened. Conjoint approach with National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) has been adopted to address the availability of water for sanitation in order to achieve the vision of ‘Nirmal Bharat’ by 2022 with all Gram Panchayats in the country attaining ‘Nirmal’ status. The budget provision under NBA for the first year of the XII Plan, 2012-13, has been increased to Rs 35000 million from Rs 15000 million.
The number of Individual Household Latrines (IHHLs) constructed as reported by States through online data monitoring system maintained by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation till August 2012 shows that Uttar Pradesh, followed by West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have the largest number of household latrines constructed between 2011 and 2012. The percentage of rural sanitation provision as per the Census 2011 points towards a healthy coverage in the north-eastern states with the exception of Assam; and also Kerala which has a sanitation coverage of over 94 per cent. Jharkhand with only 8.3 per cent coverage, along with Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Bihar occupy the other end of the spectrum.