Missing Links: Innovations In Sanitation Sector in India

Posted on February 11, 2014


As we go deep in to the story of sanitation promotion in last 60+ years in India, we hardly see well developed and sustaining infrastructure on this front. On closely observing processes and progresses, one will realize that agencies working in rural sanitation promotion are more fascinated by playing with available data, to prepare presentations and glossy reports to justify their finances. They seem least concerned about innovations, focusing and working on practical models and thinking beyond their conventional eminence. Therefore, in my view either our sanitation advocates didn’t understand the problems or the rural populace their plans.

In rural sanitation sector in India, out of the box thinking seems an important missing link. Shortsighted approaches and exaggerating data to justify funding have badly impacted achievements in rural drinking water and sanitation sectors.

Marketing of poorly woven community led approaches and behavioral change messages didn’t work either, as they were employed on piecemeal basis.  India’s census 2011 showed the reality of sanitation promotion achievements, and here the gossipmongers were boomeranged on their efforts about national and state level advocacy.

I sometime wonder that where the huge finances invested in the sector go!

Sanitation is a management issue, and there comes the point that how we manage the filth coming from human habitation in the nature wisely, so that our environment is not impacted.

DSCN0206What is the problem in promoting and developing such infrastructure that can’t sustain in odd weather conditions. When we construct our houses, we ensure that it should remain for generations! Why not during advocating, promoting and developing sanitation infrastructure in rural areas, we give a set of innovative ideas to develop sustainable sanitation!

If Malaria, Polio, Gunia worm, can be eradicated through consistent efforts, in a certain time period, why not so important issue of rural sanitation!

For example, the scenario in many developing countries is also not encouraging either. I was interacting with a policy maker from an African country Zimbabwe, who was explaining that how through a community led approach they achieved  over 25%+ sanitation coverage in their country within a short time period. When I probed about the ‘sustainability’ of such infrastructure in changing scenarios like climate variability or disasters, he was clue less! The gentleman mentioned that they didn’t really consider them as part of their planning process, therefore the focus was also not on provision of technological choices towards developing community resilience on odd weather situations like drought, storms and floods. Government of Zimbabwe has a separate department that looks in to the aspects of Climate Change and Disasters.

Looking at present scenario of sanitation sector in India, it really needs transformation in terms of employing innovative approaches on social and technological aspects, engaging better managers and leaders in sanitation promotion, and using sanitation finances judiciously.

Holistic approaches, advanced and futuristic thinking, and practical planning can only yield results!