Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change
It was a mixed feeling at the time of writing the log for “ToonLogs” on the topic “World Toilet Day”. That of discomfort and troubling questions! Why “Toilet Day” is being observed even after the world has made so much progress? Humans are planning a Mars mission, thinking of building a transit colony for humans on Moon? The stark reality of the situation is worrisome.
Over half of the global population (~4.2 billion people) lack safe sanitation, and 40% (3 billion people) in the world – live without basic handwashing facilities like soap and water and more than 600 million people practice open defecation. What a frightening situation we are in?
The access to safe sanitation is a challenge in rural areas and for urban poor. Efficient functioning of Clean water and sanitation systems are vital for the health and socio-economic development of the society. The covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of hygiene and sanitation in controlling the spread of contagious diseases.
Inadequate sanitation is directly linked to various health issues. It increases the transmission risk of diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid. Nearly half a million people die of diarrhoea every year. Open defecation also has an impact on the mental health of the public and dignity of the individuals. Women become more vulnerable as they get exposed to gender-based violence. In rural areas, young girls drop out of schools due to inadequate sanitation facilities in schools. Proper sanitation in schools will encourage the students to continue their studies.
Since 2012, 17th of November is observed as World toilet day to spread awareness on the importance of sustainable sanitation and overcome the current sanitation crisis in many parts of the world. Safe sanitation is crucial, along with clean water to protect people from infectious diseases. The UN recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right in 2010, and clean water and sanitation are part of SDGs.
The theme for this year is “Sustainable sanitation and climate change”. With the impending risk of climate change, rising sea levels and floods in urban areas, sustainable sanitation systems become a part of disaster management. The recent floods in metropolitan cities of our country demonstrated the importance of well-planned sanitation system. Sustainable sanitation is essential to protect the environment and be prepared for unprecedented disasters.
Recall PM Narendra Modi’s famous slogan, ‘Pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya’ (first toilet only then Temple)! This was implemented as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission. India is on the greatest toilet-building spree in human history. Governments “Clean India” mission aims to construct 111 million latrines in five years. “It’s the biggest, most successful behaviour-change campaign in the world,” says Val Curtis, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Environmental Health Group. He has worked on the programme in India.
Recall the struggle faced by the hero character in a popular Bollywood film due to lack of toilet and revolt by his wife (in the movie “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha”)? It is an impactful narration on this vital life-changing habit that is required for the Indian society.
It is not only a problem of lack of infrastructure or facilities, the mindset and brining awareness plays an important role.