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  Table of Contents 
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 68-69

Sustainable sanitation in India: Need of the hour

Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research, CSIR-National Institute of science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication10-Jun-2016

Correspondence Address:
Manjari Manisha
CSIR-National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, Dr. KS Krishnan Marg, New Delhi - 110 012
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5278.183849

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How to cite this article:
Manisha M. Sustainable sanitation in India: Need of the hour. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2016;20:68-9

How to cite this URL:
Manisha M. Sustainable sanitation in India: Need of the hour. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 May 28];20:68-9. Available from:

Dear Sir,

The pathetic state of sanitation index in India has put the country behind Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. According to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Performance Index 2015 developed by the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, India was a bottom performer and was ranked 93, while Pakistan performed exceptionally well by occupying the fifth place on the index. [1] There is a strong need to apply sustainable framework and strengthening capacity building in technological, social, as well as the delivery and monitoring mechanism of sanitation programs in our country. India's Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has asserted to construct 111 million toilets as a part of "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" to end open defecation by October 2019. Constructing a toilet is not going to solve the sanitation crisis; there are several other challenges that can turn the toilet into a bin. [2] The conventional design of toilets in India considers human excreta and urine as a waste and based on the premise that it should be disposed off, but by applying innovative technologies, proper recycling, and waste management it can turn as a valuable resource. Appropriate and comprehensive demographics, social analysis, and economic analysis of the population should determine the design of sanitation framework, that should be affordable, accessible, and safe and it should not be common for all. Several studies such as "Reinventing the toilet", a research program run by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Department of Biotechnology, discusses to bring safe, affordable, and sustainable toilets to the worldwide 2.5 billion people who lack access. [3] Sustainability should be a guiding force behind implementation of sanitation programs and policies by the government. A sustainable framework of sanitation must be economically viable, socially acceptable, easily maintainable, and technologically appropriate with a range of technology choices and should be environmentally friendly. [4],[5]

Technological sustainability

Technology should be a prime pillar while designing a sanitation system. Socioeconomic and demographic matrix should be prepared at a micro-level prior to the design of the sanitation system. Availability and type of land, availability of water, density of population, social and economic status of the community should be the prime factor and appropriate technological solution should be applied to design community or geography specific toilets. Technological sustainability should be determined by trained engineers. In most low-resource settings, local governments have insufficient capacity and capability strength to build community-level infrastructure and even less human capital for long-term maintenance. [6]

Behavioral sustainability

Behavioral sustainability such as training the soft skills to the mass to strengthen capacity building and understanding of the interaction between the cultural, biological, physical, and social environmental factors. Programs should be focused on training communities to use the toilet and sensitize the people on the need to keep their surrounding dirt free. There is a strong need to create awareness among the population. Adopting the toilet using behavior is an inexpensive alternative to building toilets. Behavior and cultural transformation as a frugal innovation is a bottom-up approach and can easily be adapted to different population that makes it highly scalable. Awareness programs should additionally be designed geographically and aimed to create awareness among diverse and specific mindset of people spread over the target area.

Sustainability in program delivery

A robust and innovative program can additionally be proven as failed due to poor delivery mechanism, implementation, and lack of monitoring system. The Government should focus on creating a strong and sustainable mechanism and policy for delivering the plans, funds, and ideas at the grassroots level. There should be focused monitoring of the implementation backed by a penalty and incentive schemes that will encourage the channel to deliver and implement the program in a much more effective and scheduled manner. Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) which is a combination of several methods of propagation of information and education on public health should be used to create mass awareness toward sanitation and public health along with other related benefits. Audiovisual aids, video recording, and screening, display of photographs related to best practices on personal and community hygiene, street plays with the script composed in communicable/folk local language, and providing training to the youth to make presentations are among several methods of implementing IEC to create a sustainable program delivery.

Sustainable community toilet

Following are some of the important income generating activities that may formulate sustainable framework for community toilets in the slum:

  • Pay and use system meets the demand of the community and is an economically viable income generating activity
  • Monthly membership systems should offer some discounts/perks to the user and at the same time should provide a guaranteed user for the month
  • Sanitary shop and multi-utility stores near toilet complexes, where fast-moving products and services such as mobile/dth recharge, snacks, and tea will be available
  • Making candles, cards, and handicraft training session for women
  • It may be a good idea to convert the urines/excreta into fertilizer and compost, and sell it exclusively to the people of the elite class who maintains huge greeneries at their home/gardens/lawns.

Sustainability of sanitation is a key challenge as well as a scope to improve sanitation facilities in India. The Government should use more technical tools, expertise to develop a sustainable framework of latrines, sewages across the country, and strengthening capacity and capability building. Sustainability is not only related to the physical part of the issue, it additionally covers the physiological aspects where the attitude, behavior, and cultural beliefs of the society should be changed and people should accept the improved mean of sanitation rather continuing the decade old practices.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

The Water Institute, Chapel Hill. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Jul 15].  Back to cited text no. 1
Manisha M. Swachh Bharat: A scheme or dream. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2015;19:66-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Reinventing the toilet challenge. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Jun 15].  Back to cited text no. 3
Kumar SG, Joseph N. Drainage and sewerage system in urban India: Need for action. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2012;16:150-1.  Back to cited text no. 4
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Kumar SG, Kar SS, Jain A. Health and environmental sanitation in India: Issues for prioritizing control strategies. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2011;15:93-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Niemeier D, Gombachika H, Richards-Kortum R. How to transform the practice of engineering to meet global health needs. Science 2014;345:1287-90.  Back to cited text no. 6


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