Public Sanitation- A Hazard not so Trivial

Public Sanitation, as a health hazard is one of the most critical discrepancies faced by the nation in today’s time. On one end, where we are technically developing each day, on the other end we are ignoring basic health issues which are curbing our overall development.

In a country like India, where more than 37% people live below the poverty line, assuring basic hygiene for one and all is a major task for the Government. In India, sanitation issues begin from lack of availability of clean drinking water, to improper disposal of human and other waste. Improper sanitation leads to various diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, dengue, etc. As per the UNICEF reports, in India, about 1000 children, under the age of 5, die every day due to diarrhea!

The lack of public sanitation in the country is not exclusive to the rural sector, but it is clearly visible in the well developed cosmopolitans as well. Our top-notch metros are overflowing with small slums crammed up in every nook and corner, and these places are the birth place of majority of the sanitation issues being faced by the country. As per records, about 700 million people in India, defecate openly in public spaces! These maybe on footpaths, public gardens, open parks, open sewage, gutters, and so on.

In order to conquer such issues, The Sanitation Act was put into action in 1993 which made dry latrine and its manual cleaning a punishable offence. This however went in vain, as over 13 million unsanitary bucket latrines are still being used illegally.

Coming down to the basic amenities such as the toilets, it is shocking to reveal that out of a population of about 1.2 billion, only 336 million have access to toilets! In the slums of Mumbai, between 81 to 243 people share a single toilet.

Poor sanitation is something that not only affects the health of the people of the country, but also affects the development of the nation. In fact, women are most affected by the hazards of lack of proper sanitation. For instance, in India majority of the girls drop out of school because of lack of toilets. Only 22% of them manage to even complete class 10.

On economic grounds, according to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, more than 12 billion rupees is spent every year on poor sanitation and its resultant illnesses.

In fact, India is probably the only country where animals roam about freely on the roads, excreting wherever it may seem possible! These in turn add on to the sanitation issues of the country, and hamper its growth.

These facts and figures make us realize how crucial the situation of public sanitation in our country is. Public sanitation has an impact on the overall working of the nation.

The task of providing proper sanitation to the public is not an impossible feat. Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak brought about a revolutionary change through his Sulabh Sanitation Movement. Ever since its launch in 1970, Dr. Pathak has made more than 1 million public toilets. A task which was seen to be impossible even by the high ranked bodies, it was successfully accomplished by the Sulabh Sanitation Movement. This movement has been so successfully that it has received International acclamation as well. But this radical movement is just like a drop in the vast ocean. A lot more is required!

Thus, there are solutions to cater to this problem, what is needed is hardcore commitment. It’s time to realize that public sanitation is a grave environmental hazard that has engulfed the entire country. These ensnares need to be ripped apart. It’s time to offer a happier and healthier life to our citizens.

-Aditi Ananthanarayanan

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