SUSTAINABLE SANITATION IN INDIA
GS 1, MAINS: Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization,
their problems and their remedies.
GS 2, MAINS: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating
to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
INDIA’S COMMITMENT TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE SANITATION:
• On the World Toilet Day, India made a bold statement by making sanitation a national issue.
This country is projected to have an additional 300 million new urban residents by 2050. This
is cause for alarm. Policy makers, planners, the private sector, innovators, researchers and
others need to create a sustainable ecosystem for sanitation.
• In 2014, the Centre launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) with an aim to eradicate
open defecation by 2019. Since then, the number of people practising open defecation has
decreased significantly with 1,678 cities declared open defecation free at the end of 2017.
• But, in order to further strengthen its mission of universal sanitation, India now needs to
make human waste treatment a sustainable business proposition.
• This is also an important step to helping India achieve the sixth Sustainable Development
Goal—sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
• Most villages have no arrangement for disposal of drainage water, urban areas can’t quite
manage their waste, and community toilets aren’t cleaned regularly.
SUSTAINABLE SANITATION AND SBM:
• A sustainable sanitation ecosystem includes not only access to toilets, but also effective
evacuation, transport, and treatment of waste along with reuse or responsible disposal of
the treated product.
• The main objective of a sanitation system is to protect and promote human health by
providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease. In order to be sustainable,
a sanitation system has to be not only economically viable, socially acceptable, and
technically and institutionally appropriate, it should also protect the environment and the
• SBM’s focus has been on improving access to toilets, however, the same focus has not been
given to management beyond the toilet. As a result, human waste largely goes untreated
and ends up in the environment, posing significant threat to water sources and human
HOW TO BUILD UP ON THE EXISTING FOUNDATION?
• ODF++, an augmentation of the original SBM, aims to address human waste management by
expanding city aims to include safe containment, processing, and disposal. SBM++ needs to
be scaled up and fully integrated into sanitation solutions. This will require a supportive
regulatory and policy framework that includes requirements for desludging, transport of
waste to treatment plants, and environmentally sound treatment, reuse and disposal. In
addition, there is a need for investment and market incentives to spur innovation around
• Non-sewered sanitation solutions are known to be considerably less expensive than sewered
solutions and work with existing waste collection infrastructure. Furthermore, novel,
transformative sanitation technologies are being developed that do not require connection
to a sewerage network, which were recently on display at the Reinvented Toilet Expo in
Beijing, China. Many of these technologies treat and reuse flush water on-site and require
little to no grid electricity or water for operations.
• Almost 1.75 million tonnes of human waste is generated in India every day. When treated
correctly, human waste can be converted in useful by-products, including fuel, fertiliser, and
WAY FORWARD FOR SUSTAINABLE SANITATION
• There is a need for public, private and other funders to invest in innovative sanitation
solutions along the waste management continuum to bridge the gap between the challenges
• While the GoI has already taken significant steps towards improving sanitation, it can play an
even greater role in advancing innovative solutions. Specifically, the GoI should consider
taking additional actions such as adopting the new international standard for non-sewered
sanitation systems (ISO 30500); helping to de-risk new technologies through supported pilot
projects; rolling out policy incentives for creating useful by-products from human waste; and
developing policies to regularise waste collection and transport to ensure consistent flow of
material to new treatment plants. Doing so will help to de-risk the market for private sector
players and usher in a new era of sanitation solutions in India.
• Understanding that excreta are not a waste, but actually valuable resource is the first step in
understanding sustainable sanitation. Significant of amount of energy, and plant nutrients
can be obtained if this “waste” is processed right. In fact, the water can be recycled and
reused too, which would help in sustaining natural resources.
• Energy Generating Toilets: The waste could be collected in a biodegradable film by a simple
and efficient sealing technology. Exploiting the simple biological process of Anaerobic
Digestion, which is basically the process of organic waste consumed by microorganisms in an
oxygen-free environment, the toilet ends producing energy in the form of biogas. The waste
can also be used to produce fertilizer for plants. The anaerobic digestion leaves the waste in
a semi-liquid form, which is then used as manure for planted crops.
PREVIOUS YEARS UPSC MAINS QUESTIONS:
• “To ensure effective implementation of policies addressing water, sanitation and hygiene needs,
the identification of the beneficiary segments is to be synchronized with the anticipated
outcomes.” Examine the statement in the context of the WASH scheme. (GS 2, 2017)
• Identify the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are related to health. Discuss the
success of the actions taken by the Government for achieving the same. (GS 2, 2013)
• With a brief background of quality of urban life in India, introduce the objectives and
strategy of the ‘Smart City Programme’. (GS 1, 2016)
• Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart villages. Discuss this statement in the
backdrop of rural urban integration. (GS 1, 2015)
• Discuss the various social problems which originated out of the speedy process of
urbanization in India. (GS 1, 2013)