An international NGO, WaterAid, has put India in second place on the list of the world’s worst places for sanitation.
China is number one in the 2007 WaterAid report on the Status of the World’s toilets.
While we have made progress since Independence, even now over half the population does not have access to safe sanitation. From 1 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban population having access to sanitation in 1998, the coverage has jumped to 48 per cent (rural) and 93 per cent (urban).
But as Depinder S. Kapur, country representative, WaterAid India argues, these are merely figures of infrastructure and do not reflect the actual access and usage of latrines by individuals or families.
“Given the large population of slum dwelling and unaccounted for urban populations and their exclusion from formal urban sanitation and sewerage systems, we believe the coverage status is about the same for both urban and rural India,” he said.
The government remains committed to making India open defecation-free by 2012 and has increased the funds for the Total Sanitation Campaign by 43 per cent from Rs 7.40 billion in 2006-07 to Rs 10.6 billion in 2007-08. Today, with new components like Solid and Liquid Waste Management, the programme has crossed the Rs 120 billion mark in its total outlay, making it one of the largest sanitation programmes in the world.
Nonetheless, WaterAid points out that even if the sanitation Millenium Development Goals (MDG) goals are met, more than half-a-billion people will still remain uncovered. It calculates that the MDG 7, Target 10 states that it aims only to halve by 2015 from the 1990 levels the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.
So, even if the MDGs are reached in 2015, almost half the rural population some 388 million people and 28 per cent of the urban population 112 million people would still be without basic sanitation.