ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Open Defecation in India

Open Defecation in India

This study identifies 11 issues that have inhibited the spread of a comprehensive sanitation programme. It emphasises the complexity of issues and helps avoid the facile targeting of the poor as deficient citizens, whose latrine practices are viewed as a "primitive" source of social disorder and disease. Recognition that many factors are involved and interrelated might also serve as a warning against patchwork policies that disregard local context in their haste to proclaim another district an "open defecation free zone".

Estimates suggest that at least 50% of India’s 1.2 billion people defecate and urinate outdoors where best they can. Randomly dispersed human waste carries disease; but it also has the potential to produce energy and fertiliser. Although there is much discussion of public sanitation and “open defecation”, highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s references in his Independence Day speech, taming human waste in India proves a complex challenge, far exceeding mere technical fixes. Because the complicated dimensions of public sanitation are seldom disentangled and spelled out, it seems useful to try to do so in a basic “laundry list” way. The exercise may prompt further discussion and help clarify the integrated steps necessary to maximise the benefits, and minimise the evils of human waste.

Our list identifies 11 features that play a part in determining people’s acceptance of and access to controlled ways of dealing with human waste. These features are often interrelated and overlapping:

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