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Indicus Analytics: The real dirty picture

More than half of India?s households still lack access to improved sanitation facilities

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It has become a cliché to point out that in India access to a mobile phone is easier than to a toilet. The latest figures reveal that 53 per cent of total have no toilet facilities, almost half of Indian households still have to use open spaces, and about three per cent use public latrines. Despite the ambitious target of “Sanitation for All” by 2017 under the Total Sanitation Campaign, which began in 1999, real gains in sanitation coverage have been slow. In the past 10 years, the proportion of no-latrine households has gone down by only 10 percentage points.

A detailed break-up of the various types of latrine facilities highlights the inadequacies of improved sanitation facilities. Improved sanitation includes a water closet in the premises and a pit latrine with a slab or ventilated improved pit. About 56 per cent of households in India do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. In rural areas, the scale of the problem is particularly daunting since 72 per cent of households still do not use improved sanitation facilities.

The situation in urban areas is not so critical in terms of scale compared to that in its rural counterpart — only 21 per cent of urban households are in need of improved sanitation facilities. The Census also reveals the persistence of night soil collection by humans and by animals. Though the share of such households is small, the very existence of such practices anywhere in the country is shameful. (Click for chart)

DOWN THE DRAIN
Type of latrine Total Rural Urban
Piped sewer system 11.9 2.2 32.7
Septic tank 22.2 14.7 38.2
Other system 2.3 2.5 1.7
With slab/ventilated improved pit 7.6 8.2 6.4
Without slab/open pit 1.8 2.3 0.7
Night soil disposed into open drain 0.5 0.2 1.2
Night soil removed by human 0.3 0.3 0.3
Night soil serviced by animals 0.2 0.2 0.2
Public latrine 3.2 1.9 6.0
Open 49.8 67.3 12.6
Source: Census, 2011

Poor sanitation coverage in India is clustered in some of the less developed states in central and eastern India. In terms of access to improved sanitation facilities, Orissa lies at the bottom with its coverage barely reaching 20 per cent. Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are some of the other states where coverage is less than 30 per cent, which is far below the all-India average. Also, in states like Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, more than 50 per cent of households do not have access to improved sanitation facilities. Jharkhand has the highest share of households defecating in the open: 77 per cent. At the other end, only Kerala and Lakshadweep have achieved more than 90 per cent sanitation coverage. Even Delhi and Chandigarh have not reached the levels that Kerala has.

Looking at the improvement in sanitation coverage since 2001, it is evident that there had been a wide variation in terms of improvement ranging from almost 36 percentage points in Himachal Pradesh to -2 percentage points in Jammu and Kashmir. States with low sanitation coverage in 2001 that improved coverage by four to 10 percentage points are Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Himachal Pradesh, Daman and Diu, Haryana, Sikkim, Punjab, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Goa and Uttarakhand registered increased coverage by more than 20 percentage points.

Though government programmes, schemes and targets pass us by, the Census only brings to light the continued dismal picture of India’s poor with which everyone is familiar.


Indian States Development Scorecard, a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics, focuses on the progress in India and across the states across various socio-economic parameters.
sumita@indicus.net 

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