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Reality of the Swachh Bharat Mission

Context

  • India was ranked right at the bottom of 180 countries in the Environment Performance Index (EPI) in 2022.
  • The ranking raises questions about the success of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

About

  • The EPI ranks countries on climate change performance, environmental health, and ecosystem vitality.
  • It measures 40 performance indicators across 11 issue categories, such as air quality, and drinking water, and sanitation.
  • The government responded to the rank saying the methodology is faulty and does not quantify the Indian scenario objectively.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims to enable better living standards, so the poor ranking can be linked to the success of SBM.

What is the Swachh Bharat Mission?

  • The Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission (SBM) was launched in 2014 to achieve universal sanitation coverage by 2019, as a tribute to the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • It consisted of two sub-missions, urban, and rural or Gramin (G).
  • The urban component of the mission is implemented by the Ministry of Urban Development and the rural component by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • SBM(G) sought to improve “the levels of cleanliness through Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities and making Gram Panchayats Open Defecation Free (ODF), clean and sanitized.
  • SBM Phase II: The second phase, started in 2020-2021, expands efforts with a focus on the safe management of solid and liquid waste and the sustainability of ODF.
  • An ODF Plus village has sustained its Open Defecation Free (ODF) status along with implementing either solid or liquid waste management systems.
  • It would transform villages from ODF to ODF Plus by 2024-25.

Achievements

  • SBM Phase I: The program led to the construction of over 10 crore individual household toilets, taking sanitation coverage from 39% in 2014 to 100% in 2019 when around 6 lakh villages declared themselves Open Defecation Free (ODF).
  • While studies indicate that the SBM-G campaign led to significant economic, environmental, and health impacts, contributing to the empowerment of women, in particular, it also led to the achievement of SDG 6.2 (Sanitation and Hygiene), 11 years ahead of the stipulated timeline.
  • SBM Phase II: 75% of villages have achieved ODF Plus status under Phase II of the Mission.
  • The top performing States/UTs that have achieved 100% ODF Plus villages are – Andaman & Nicobar Islands, D&N Haveli, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Puducherry, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Tripura.

Challenges in Implementing Swachh Bharat Mission

  • Behavioral Change: One of the primary challenges has been changing deep-rooted cultural attitudes and behaviors towards cleanliness and sanitation.
  • Encouraging people to adopt hygienic practices, such as proper waste disposal and toilet usage, requires sustained efforts in education and awareness campaigns.
  • Infrastructure Development: Building adequate sanitation infrastructure, including toilets and waste management systems, especially in rural areas, has been a considerable challenge.
  • Ensuring the availability of facilities in remote and economically disadvantaged regions requires significant investment and logistical planning.
  • Maintenance of Infrastructure: Merely constructing toilets is not sufficient; ensuring their proper maintenance and usage over time is crucial
  • Many toilets constructed under SBM have faced issues of poor maintenance and non-functionality due to a lack of ownership or awareness among users.
  • Open Defecation: Despite efforts to eradicate open defecation, it remains prevalent in certain areas due to various factors such as lack of awareness, cultural practices, or inadequate toilet facilities.
  • Changing these behaviors requires not only infrastructure development but also community engagement and behavior-change communication.
  • Waste Management: Proper solid and liquid waste management is essential for maintaining cleanliness and preventing environmental pollution.
  • However, the infrastructure and systems for waste collection, segregation, and disposal are often inadequate, leading to issues such as littering and contamination of water sources.
  • Funding and Resources: Adequate funding and resources are necessary for the successful implementation of SBM.
  • While the government has allocated significant funds for the mission, ensuring effective utilization and allocation of resources at the grassroots level remains a challenge.

Way Ahead

  • Addressing these challenges requires a multi-pronged approach involving not only government intervention but also active participation and cooperation from communities, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders.
  • Sustainable solutions that address the root causes of sanitation and cleanliness issues, along with continuous monitoring and feedback mechanisms are essential for the long-term success of the Swachh Bharat Mission.