India started the sanitation revolution six years ago and through the years, ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ transformed the way sanitation and cleaning are seen in hundreds of thousands Indian villages and over 4000 cities. The major outcome of this initiative is the way municipalities and local governments manage and run sanitation services. This article tries to highlight some of the best municipal practices adopted in the last six years and some other innovations in sanitation from around the world that can be implemented to improve sanitation standards further and resolve unsettled issues
Mahatma Gandhi has been the inspiration and ambassador of Swachh Bharat Mission and his spectacles in the logo of the mission became the brand of cleanliness and sanitation initiatives in the country. His popularity among the masses helped in reaching out to the last person.
As targeted at the start of the mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the country open defecation-free on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi last year.
The Prime Minister unveiled the map of India as open defecation-free at the Sabarmati riverfront ground in the presence of more than 20,000 village heads from across the country and also representatives from several countries. Government data tells that in the past five years, the Indian government has built 100 million toilets. It implies that it constructed 38 toilets every minute that had passed since the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched. It is an outstanding achievement and the government machinery certainly deserves compliments for the same.
Swachh Bharat mission has helped in creating awareness among the general public about the sanitation and the negative impacts of open defecation. This was done through a nationwide awareness and communication campaign. The campaign ran several positive messages on the importance of better sanitation and kept sanitation and cleanliness at the forefront.
In 2014, the United Nations (UN) estimated that there is a four-fold return on every dollar invested in water and sanitation and that these savings come in the form of reduced health care costs for individuals and societies around the world. Government of India has spent almost 28 billion dollars on the mission. But the effort for ensuring safe and healthy environment through the mission cannot stop here and the sustained efforts by all stakeholders are required to take this feat to the next level by improving the standard of sanitation and cleanliness in cities and villages of India.
AIILSG’s role in SBM
All India Institute of Local Self-Government (AIILSG) also took up Swachh Bharat Mission projects, conducted training workshops for officials and elected representatives and helped municipal bodies in implementing IEC activities in many cities. Srinagar in Kashmir is one of the cities where Team AIILSG implemented the IEC activities with the help of civil society organizations and local agencies.
Team AIILSG targeted young students and made them aware of the significance of a clean and healthy environment. They encouraged students to lead the initiative of making cities clean through plogging drives in which students clubbed walking and picking up littered waste from streets and public places. This initiative became an instant hit among the youngsters in Srinagar. And, the outcome of such initiatives was that Srinagar city improved its ranking in Swachhta Survekshan considerably in a matter of one year. In 2019, the city stood at 357th position but in the recent ranking, the city improved its performance and was ranked 36th.
Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is aiming to improve its Solid Waste Management services by focusing on segregation at source, improving collection and transportation efficiency as well as scientific processing of the MSW generated in the city. SMC took steps to sensitize the general public about solid waste management through intensive IEC programs in March 2018. Currently, six IEC partners have been empanelled to help handhold SMC to reach out to citizens in 15 out of 35 wards. The Project Management Support Unit (PMSU) from AIILSG has also been commissioned to oversee the day-to-day activities of the IEC partners and monitor their performance. IEC programme aims to create awareness among masses regarding solid waste in the city of Srinagar to avoid, minimise and manage solid waste and also to discuss models and techniques which can solve many of the current solid waste problems. All six NGOs closely work in collaboration with the PMSU and under the overall guidance and supervision of SMC. Despite the harsh weather conditions, frequent strikes and conflict-ridden state in Srinagar city, the PMSU team has achieved its targets. The institute took the initiative of felicitating sanitation workers, drivers of dumping vans and holding medical camps for the landfill site workers. The institute has also taken up similar work in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Greater Noida.
The institute has organized a series of exposure visits for municipal officials and elected representatives from different parts of the country to the cities where the works are done in the area of sanitation. This has been appreciated and has brought about changes on the ground. Officials from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh were taken to different parts of the country on exposure visits. In this connection, a visit for officials from West Bengal was organised to Cooper Hospital, Mumbai, to understand Best Practices on Smart Vermicompost system and Organic farming project for Natural Waste. This project is called the “Subhash Dalvi Pattern” for Smart Composting as he initiated the idea. This was a great example of “Zero Waste Campus”. The highlight of this training program was a visit to a residential complex in Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR), Andheri. This is a noteworthy example of how a large residential society has contributed to the SWM plan of the City by turning itself into a “Zero Waste Campus”. The society does not give any extra burden to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) in terms of waste. In addition to this, the institute also organized hundreds of training programs and workshops for the officials and elected representatives to give them an understanding of Swachh Bharat Mission guidelines, and best practices. The institute has trained a large number of officials and elected representatives under the capacity building program of Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and SBM.
Success stories from ULBs
South Delhi Municipal Corporation used waste for creating replicas of Seven Wonders of the World in a public park. According to the government report, an amount of 110 tonnes of waste was taken from MCD yards and stores all over the capital to recreate these monuments. It took
5 crores to construct this park, with1.16 crore only for the Taj Mahal Replica. These monuments made out of waste in the national capital will inspire small cities and towns in the hinterland to recycle waste to their best use.
Indore is one city that has won maximum laurels in its campaign of making the city litter free and clean. The city runs 100 city buses on bio-CNG generated from its decentralized waste to energy plants. This initiative has not just reduced the burden of transporting waste to landfill sites but also ensured clean fuel for public transport and reduced the city’s
carbon footprint. Chennai in Tamil Nadu became the first city to have an online waste exchange for municipal solid waste. The city generates more than 5,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste in its 15 zones covering an area of 426 sq km. The Madras Waste Exchange is a platform to bridge the corporation’s segregated waste and potential buyers such as waste entrepreneurs and the 2,600 scrap dealers across the city, bulk waste generators including schools, colleges and office complexes. The innovation in waste management emerged from every part of the country. Even the small district of Leh launched the Project Tsang-da for waste segregation and reduced the burden on the landfill site. Government of India has compiled various best practices in a booklet and has made it available to the corporations for assessing their local situation and to adopt those innovations based on available resources.
Future of SBM
In the next phase of the SBM, the government is making efforts to make all the cities ODF++. Right now, only 11 per cent Urban Local Bodies (489) have been certified as ODF++. As per the government guidelines, a city, ward or work circle could be declared ODF+ if, “at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets are functional and well-maintained.” ODF++ city goes a step further. The ODF++ protocol adds the condition that “faecal sludge/septage and sewage is safely managed and treated, with no discharging and/or dumping of untreated faecal sludge/septage and sewage in drains, water bodies or open areas.”
This time, there is one more target to achieve for ULBs—Water Plus. To achieve safe sustainable sanitation for all, municipalities have to ensure that no untreated wastewater is discharged into the open environment. According to the toolkit released in May this year, a city/ward can be declared as Water Plus provided all wastewater released from households, commercial establishments, drains, nullahs, etc. is treated to a satisfactory level (as per CPCB norms), before releasing the treated wastewater to the environment. Further, the adequate capacity of wastewater and sewage treatment facilities is to be ensured. The infrastructure should be maintained properly and cost recovery is ensured through reuse/recycling of treated wastewater to ensure sustainability. Plastic Waste Management, Garbage Free City, E-waste management and improving infrastructure and capacity at the local level also remains on the cards for the government in the next phase (2020-21 to 2024-25) of the SBM. The targets for the next phase seem as challenging as they were in the first phase. All the agencies have to work together to make sure that these targets are also met in time without losing control over the achieved outcomes.
I am quite sure that the government initiatives and investment in the field of sanitation will help the generations to come and ensure that our future generations grow up in a clean and safe environment.