Sanitation and Hygiene
In a world of 7.3 billion people, 2.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation, of which 1 billion have no choice but to defecate in the open. The lack of basic sanitation facilities in India has been a significant contributor to diseases, allergies, respiratory infections, malnutrition and a loss of economic output. A major challenge that India faces today is the lack of equal dispersion of population across the country. India’s urban population consists of approximately 350 million people which is mainly confined to a few large cities, while being responsible for producing over 65 million tons of waste. In India, the amount of waste generated per capita is estimated to increase at a rate of 1 to 1.33% annually. Therefore, it is estimated that the total waste quantity generated by the year 2047 will be about 260 million tons per year. The country is home to 16 percent of the world’s population, but it only has four percent of the world’s fresh water reserve.
“Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human waste. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease world-wide and improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities. The word ‘sanitation’ also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal.”
Environmental Sanitation and hygiene envisages promotion of health, survival and development. Many countries are challenged in providing adequate sanitation for their entire population, leaving people at risk for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related diseases. Waste that cause health issues include human and animal waste, industrial waste and agricultural wastes. Diarrheal disease, largely caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene, is a leading cause of malnutrition, claiming nearly 600,000 lives of children under five annually.
Inadequate facilities affect the education and economic productivity and impact the dignity and personal safety of women. In the year 1840, the “global sanitary revolution” transformed life in Europe and other parts of the developed world. In fact, it furthered the economic transformation, by making societies cleaner and healthier. Many countries still await a sanitation revolution. Without proper sanitation, people cannot accomplish proper education, nutrition and health. As we know that the fresh water is a scarce resource and the costs of exploiting it and maintaining existing sanitation and water systems are increasing.
Urbanization increases the complexity of technical, political and financial challenges of service delivery, especially in rapidly expanding slums and informal settlements. One billion people still defecate in the open, without access to even basic toilets or handwashing facilities. Improved sanitation, hygiene and safe water save millions of lives, accelerating economic growth, enhancing people’s dignity and creating a better future for all.
Some of the solutions to the sanitation problems:
- Government housing and Planning: due to the migration of people from rural to urban areas, there has been an appropriate city planning at municipal level. This means that the authorities need to ensure a compulsory connection of clean water and proper sanitation services to all the new house and should start ensuring connections to the old ones. Governments can also ensure that instead of relocating poorer migrants to slums, they can reside in government sanctioned house with at least one toilet per ten people. This will in turn reduce slum burden and will help in the development of the unconnected slums.
- Public toilet facilities: Governments should ensure the establishment of multiple public toilets, which will help the rural area in a dramatic way. The lack of public toilets leads to public defecation and spreads infections. The public toilets need to be maintained properly for the sake of the public health.
- Establishment of water processing plants: this technology of establishing the processing plants will be costlier than any other technology used. Most of the sewage in India is unfortunately dumped directly into water bodies like lakes, rivers and oceans. This is problematic not only from an ecological perspective but also social and health. Many people of rural areas and nearby villages use this sewerage water for their daily use such as drinking, bathing and cooking. Processing of sewage can help in multiple ways as the residual organic waste can be separated from the water and can be used for creating organic fertilizers.
- Education: status of the society needs to be improved. Increased awareness of different diseases and sanitation problems will lead to informed decision making and better hygiene practices.
- The first DRDO Bio-Digestion Toilet: a serendipitous innovation born from the need for sanitation for army personnel in the Himalayas. Soldiers stationed in high altitude regions need toilets for sustainable disposal of human waste. Scientists at DRDO chanced upon a strain of bacteria, Psychrophile, on a scientific expedition in Antarctica in the 1990s. They brought home a strain of the bacteria and subsequently developed a microbial consortium comprising four clusters of bacteria from Antarctica and other low temperature areas. As these bacteria survive in extreme conditions, this experiment succeeded and was implemented successfully within the army confinement. It was not until 2012 that this technology was also implemented in Indian Railways. This technology is constructed below the water closet, the bacteria’s feed upon the excreta. The anaerobic process degrades the matter within 48 hours. This technology of Bio-Digestion toilet is odour free, water sealed, off grid toilets and are sustainable alternative for septic tanks and pit latrines. More than fifty developers have signed up with the builders to make this technology a success all over India.
- Omni-processor: developed by Bill and Melinda Gates. It can convert sewage water into clean and potable drinking water while powering itself independently. Bill Gates even tried out the water it produces. One machine can produce enough clean water for 100,000 people. Construction of this device is on the process and this machine would be the answer for water depletion.
- With the use of water filters like Aqua guard and RO water, half of the population in India residing in the urban areas will have clean and safe drinking water.
- Leach-pit and ecofriendly toilet design: this toilet consists of ventilation pipes which kills anaerobic bacteria needed to convert the feces into compost. Drainage trucks empty the tanks once its full. An ecofriendly toilet design consists of an air light model with double pits. The toilet can be connected to the second pit once the first one is full, allowing the first pit to naturally let the anaerobic bacteria grow over a period of six or so months. By the time the second pit is full, the compost from the first can be emptied and used in the farmers’ fields. This design of toilet is now implemented in many of the rural areas and in some parts of the world for better hygiene and sanitation.
- ZDTS (Zero Discharge Toilets): are different from other toilets which are used in houses and offices. Normal toilets, discharge the effluents or water but ZDTS does not discharge any fecal matter or water. It all collects all the fecal matter which is then Verm composed. The waste becomes organic fertilizer and is free from pathogens. The amount of water which is used for flushing is very minimal and the used water gets stored into the tank for reuse. These toilets are mobile as well as stationary. This type of toilets can be used for public, communities and In Indian Railways. During Maha Kumbh at Allahabad in the year 2012, approximately 300 such toilets were installed which were used by 3000-4000 people daily. In 2015, on Magh Mela at Allahabad these toilets were used again to save water body from getting polluted.
Ending the open defecation will bring about a drastic change in the society as well as in the economic growth of our country. Increasing the awareness about sanitation and hygiene and encouraging people to make their own sanitarians will help in eradicating communicable diseases as well as social crimes. Bringing in modern technologies for decomposing animal waste and human waste will convert the communities and rural areas, a safe and healthy place to live.
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