Misleading Facts: Still We Can Celebrate World Toilet Day

Posted on November 19, 2012


Today it’s world toilet day. The monitoring of sanitation facilities globally remained a challenge to the country governments and International agencies. It is sometime said that the cursory assessment reports (e.g. JMP-Joint Monitoring Programme) of the facts about the rural and urban sanitation scenario may lead to pressure on country governments to expedite the process of providing better and sustainable sanitation infrastructure to their population.

In a scenario where still 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have clean toilet facilities and 1.1 billion still defecate in open, how much the advocacy terms as ‘human right approach’ and sanitation as ‘economic investment’ will pave better future for commons.

The problem of the commons in India on sanitation is about the low cost sustainable sanitation technology options, access to quick and reliable information for infrastructure building and some sort of advisory and technical support. The monitoring process and getting reliable information from the developed infrastructure is another important aspect that need serious consideration in India (Read more>>).

There are a number of facts about the development of India’s rural sanitation infrastructure, in this the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2006) data found that 74 percent households had no toilet facilities and they use bushes or field for defection. This report further elaborates that, of the total 26 percent available toilets, 13.5 percent households have toilets connected to septic tanks, 5.4 as ptoiletour flush toilets, 2.9 pit toilets with slab and 2.3 percent pit toilets without slab.

The updated Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report 2012 finds that there are 67 percent people in rural India those still defecate in open and 33 percent have a mix of improved, shared and other types of toilet facilities.

The physical monitoring progress report (today, 19 Nov 2012) of Government of India finds that 71 percent individual households in rural India have toilet facilities, while only 29 percent households now need to construct individual household toilets.  While the census 2011 have a different set of data for rural India, which states that 31 percent households have toilets while 69 percent have no toilets.

Table: Shows difference between two sets of sanitation survey data available for India.  The difference in survey ranges from 24 to 86 Million.

Difference in Population Having TOILETS Difference (No. of People)   In Crores     In Million
JMP (2012) Vs. Census (2011) 24800000        2.4      24.8
Census (2011) Vs. IMS (2012) 24800000        2.4      24.8
JMP (2012) Vs. IMS (2012) 49600000         5      49.6
NSSO (08-09) Vs. Census (2011) 49600000         5      49.6
Census (2011) Vs. NFHS (2006) 86800000         8      86.8

#Each row has difference between two sets of survey data. Just compare it with the overall population figures of countries like Nepal- 31 Million, Italy-60 Million, Sri Lanka-20 Million and Bhutan-0.7 Million.

The government of India’s National Sample Survey-NSS (2008-09) report mentions that 65 percent  people in rural India practice open defecation while only 26 percent have improved toilets.

Let’s take example for the 11 Indian mountains states, for which the government of India’s updated monitoring report (19 Nov 2012) finds 75 percent households with toilet facilities, a slightly better figure to its national average of 71 percent. However, on other hand the census 2011 finds that best performing mountain states like Himachal Pradesh could still develop 67 percent individual household toilets and Uttarakhand 54 percent in rural areas, as they have reported figure of 100 and 84 percent respectively in Government of India’s IMS system.

The problem is that as we go deeper in to the statistics of different agencies and departments, one will only get numerous facts and they mostly mislead the planning process.

Very superficial, poorly researched and impractical monitoring systems are not going to help in understanding the situation.

Also, just pumping finances in the name of aid, cooperation, technical support and grant won’t help really, but, well thought, innovative and practical ideas will!

Therefore, a robust monitoring system and innovation on this front remains a challenge in India, and none of the national or international agencies working in ‘Water and Sanitation’ sector here has come forward with any such innovative or different set of idea to track this progress judiciously and on continuous basis.

Let’s see by when they arrive to us here in India!