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On October 2nd, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched to make India open defecation free in five years. The target to achieve universal sanitation coverage was set for 2019 – the year that marks the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who wanted to make sanitation a priority for India more than a century ago. Between 2000 to 2017, the South Asian region, including India, accounted for almost three-fourths of the population who stopped defecating in the open.

UN Report Study:

  • Groundwater contamination is 12.7 times more likely in villages practising open-defecation as compared to those declared open-defecation free (ODF) under the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report analysed 752 samples from 12 ODF and and an equal number of non-ODF villages across West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.
  • According to the study, soil and food in the non-ODF villages were 1.1 and 2.16 times respectively more likely to be contaminated with human faeces in comparison to ODF villages.
  • It also revealed that in non-ODF villages, piped water was 2.40 times and household water was 2.48 times more likely at risk of faecal contamination.
  • In Bihar, the groundwater in the non-ODF villages was 35.7 times more likely to get contaminated. Similarly, in West Bengal and Odisha, the groundwater was 6.5 and 5.3 times respectively more likely at risk of faecal contamination.
  • Piped water in non-ODF villages in Bihar (1.33 times), West Bengal (2.73 times) and Odisha (1.5 times) too was more likely to get contaminated as compared to ODF villages.
  • Similarly, the household water in non-ODF villages in Bihar (2.74 times), West Bengal (4.14 times) and Odisha (1.44 times) was more likely to be contaminated in comparison to the ODF villages.
  • Soil in non-ODF villages in Bihar (1.21 times), West Bengal (1.39 times) and West Bengal (0.89 times) was also at risk of contamination.

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Centre undertook a byzantine initiative to make villages ODF and even gave monetary help to build toilet. The mission received appreciation from various quarters. Nearly 5,61,940 villages have been declared ODF. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Andaman and Nicobar, Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh are 100 per cent ODF. It is lowest in Goa, Odisha, Telangana, Bihar and West Bengal. Rural sanitation coverage in the country has 99 per cent and the mission was in its final stages.

SDG 6:

  • By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.
  • By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
  • By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.
  • By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.
  • By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary co-operation as appropriate.
  • By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.
  • By 2030, expand international co-operation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, waste water treatment, recycling and reuse technologies.
  • Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


  • There are serious problems, like disposal of faecal matter, quality and maintenance of toilets, and inappropriate technology.
  • In Uttarakhand more than 70 per cent of the toilets were built without any expert’s guidance and in several areas, they were unusable owing to either lack of water connection or that they were not built within household premises.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) done in 2016-17 too found that open defecation remained fairly high in the rural areas of the BIMARU states.
  • The adoption of the twin pit model is still very low in rural India.
  • Another issue is the poor nature of construction and low quality of raw materials used under SBM (G).
  • City drains are still cleaned by manual scavengers despite the rule banning them.

Way Forward:

  • Policy makers, planners, the private sector, innovators, researchers and others need to create a sustainable ecosystem for sanitation.
  • The Government of India should consider taking additional actions such as
    • Adopting the new international standard for non-sewered sanitation systems
    • Helping to de-risk new technologies through supported pilot projects
    • Rolling out policy incentives for creating useful byproducts from human waste
    • Developing policies to regularise waste collection and transport
    • Doing so will usher in a new era of sanitation solutions in India.
  • To sustain ODF status, the durability and quality of construction of toilets must be due care of, shows the 51st report by the Standing Committee of Parliament.