It is estimated that 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to proper sanitation. Around1.1 billion people defecate in the open and constructing toilets could save the lives of more than 200,000 children each year. Sanitation is a global development priority. Diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water claims lives of 315,000 children every year. Lack of access to toilets has been identified as a huge problem, particularly in the rural areas. It not only spreads diseases like Diarrhoea but also exposes women to the risk of sexual assault when they go into the fields after dark. Cultural norms are hard to change and according to some, open-air defecation is seen as more sanitary by those who prefer to relieve themselves in the open rather than share a toilet. Disease transmission at work mostly caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices, causes 17% of all workplace deaths.
Public toilets with good water facility are the need of the hour. In a country like India it is very difficult and takes a long time to change the practice of open defecation in rural areas. Most of the toilets which are constructed for public use are being neglected by the people due to improper maintenance.
India is racing to build toilets by 2019 for 600 million people or roughly half the population which lacks access to sanitization. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put it high on the national agenda, but the challenge could be daunting in a country where defecating in the open is a common sight and is accepted by many as normal. Our PM has already pledged to provide access to a toilet at every school and home in the country by 2019, on the occasion of 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. His campaign, called Clean India, means the government will have to build 60 million toilets in that timeframe. So far, about 9.5 million toilets have been constructed, according to the Indian Ministry of Water and Sanitation.
Modi’s approach is to use improved sanitation as a tool to combat poverty, develop the economy, and make India more attractive to business investment. The proposition is not an easy one: Half of India’s population, at least 620 million people, defecates outside. Toilets play a crucial role in creating a strong economy, as well as improving health and protecting people’s safety and dignity, particularly among women and girls’.
Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)