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How sanitation drives can leave water bodies badly contaminated

TV Jayan Mandi | Updated on April 22, 2019

Increased toilet coverage in the country, under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), is only going to increase pollution of water bodies, said an expert.

Urban centres in the country generate 20-30 per cent human waste and even this is not adequately taken care of. “If we cover 100 per cent of the country with the kind of toilets that we have right now, what is going to happen to the water bodies here,” asked Vinod Tare, who headed the consortium of seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) set up for cleaning the Ganga.

“We are constructing millions of toilets under the SBM. But have we really thought about what sort of toilets they should be? If we are making the kind of toilets that are already existing, what will happen to water bodies in the country five or 10 years down the line,” Tare said while talking at a conference organised at IIT-Mandi.

Managing the loop

According to official estimates, over nine crore toilets have been built across rural India under this mission. More than 5.5 lakh villages and 615 districts have been declared open-defecation-free across all States and Union Territories.

One of the things that the authorities and planners have to think about when it comes to sanitation is that whether the loop can be closed locally rather than having a long-winding one in which the waste flows through a pipe to a river or a water body to reach the ocean, he said.

To tackle any environmental issue, there is a need to spend the resources — whether it is land, energy or human, or a combination of all three.

“Today, if you want to fill your stomach, you probably have to spend some money. If you want to empty your stomach in an environment-friendly way, you should be willing to spend a fraction of what you spend on food,” said the professor of civil engineering at the IIT-Kanpur.

Published on April 21, 2019

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