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CSE questions sustainability of ODF success

PTI New Delhi | Updated on October 03, 2019 Published on October 03, 2019

File photo   -  The Hindu

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has questioned the sustainability of the government’s Swachh Bharat Mission and raised concerns over the maintenance of the nearly 100 million toilets constructed under the ambitious programme.

The advocacy group asked how these toilets will be kept functional and how the “tonnes of waste” generated by them will be disposed of. India has built 100 million toilets in about six lakh villages, and another 6.3 million in cities in the last four years, it said.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that rural India and its villages are now open defecation-free (ODF).

CSE Director-General Sunita Narain said till five years ago, India was home to 60 per cent of the world’s people who defecated in the open. “If the nation now achieves ODF status, it means a huge leap forward not only for it, but for the world as a whole. It will take the world a long way on its sustainable development goal of universal coverage to toilets and safe disposal of excreta,” she said.

However, she said, the scale of this transition is so massive that it will mean new, bigger challenges. “Will the extraordinary success of the Swachh Bharat Mission stand the test of time?” she asked.

“How will the over 100 million toilets be maintained and kept functional? Will people continue to use them? Will the millions of tonnes of waste generated by these toilets be managed and disposed of efficiently, without polluting the environment? How will we make this success sustainable, make it last?”

Trend reversal

CSE researchers also pointed out that even if toilets have been built and are being used, the trend can reverse.

“A case in point is Haryana, which had declared itself ODF in 2017. A recent investigation...reveals that people are slipping back to the old habit of open defecation,” a CSE statement said.

Sumedh, a public health and sanitation expert who identifies himself with his first name, said the data used to measure the scheme’s success is based on a survey done in 2012. “The ODF status declaration was done on the basis of a baseline survey conducted in 2012 by panchayats, rural housing and rural development department. The data is very archaic,” he claimed.

Published on October 03, 2019
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