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

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Revisiting Discrepancies in Sanitation Statistics of Rural India

This response to Arjun Kumar's "Discrepancies in Sanitation Statistics of Rural India" (EPW, 10 January 2015) points out that the article does not mention another gap in official data: omission of households that reside in settlements that are categorised as census towns. This response shows that taking this category into account can alter Kumar's observations.

On Open Defecation

Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey are appreciated for their holistic analysis of the issue of “Open Defecation in India” (EPW, 6 December 2014). However, there are certain issues which need further debate and scrutiny. The authors are aware of the issue of Western bias, when they state, “Is this not...

Haze and Smoke

We are killing our urban residents through the air they breathe.

Lower Pollution, Longer Lives

India's population is exposed to dangerously high levels of air pollution. Using a combination of ground-level in situ measurements and satellite-based remote sensing data, this paper estimates that 660 million people, over half of India's population, live in areas that exceed the Indian National Ambient Air Quality Standard for fine particulate pollution. Reducing pollution in these areas to achieve the standard would, we estimate, increase life expectancy for these Indians by 3.2 years on average for a total of 2.1 billion life years. We outline directions for environmental policy to start achieving these gains.

Discrepancies in Sanitation Statistics of Rural India

The inadequate availability of drinking water and proper sanitation, especially in rural India, leads to innumerable deadly diseases, harms the environment, and also affects vulnerable populations, such as persons with disabilities and women, exposing them to sexual violence. Providing access to sanitation facilities in rural areas of India has been on the agenda of the Government of India for the past three decades. However, a reinvigorated thrust to provide adequate sanitation facilities in rural India is the need of the hour, which must be accompanied by constant scrutiny and monitoring, so as to arrive at apt decisions and policies for further action.

Health and Economic Impact of Unsafe Drinking Water

The article is based on a study of the problem of contaminated water supply in Ludhiana. It finds that the incidence of water-related diseases and their economic impact on households is reasonably high. The quality of water was identified as a major problem in all the selected localities of the city. Leaking pipes, water storage and the slow movement of water during transmission and distribution contribute to health problems, especially for the poor.

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".

Whose Cleanliness?

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) glosses over issues of caste, which is inextricably linked to sanitation work across the country, and the rights of sanitation workers. It incorrectly tries to draw legitimacy from Gandhi’s thoughts on hygiene and cleanliness.

Science, Society and Risk in the Anthropocene

The culture of too much hygiene in rapid, unplanned urbanising society with poor infrastructure exposes urban spaces to a particular risk brought about by unchecked use of technology. This article looks at the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and antibacterial consumer products, which form the aetiology for the emergence of new strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria (superbugs) in urban space, especially in waterbodies.

Why Open Defecation

This refers to the article by Diane Coffey et al ("Revealed Preference for Open Defecation: Evidence from a New Survey in Rural North India", EPW, 20 September 2014). I believe the reasons why latrine use is not favoured by many should be understood sensitively by those who administer the scheme...

Revealed Preference for Open Defecation

Despite economic growth, government latrine construction, and increasing recognition among policymakers that open defecation constitutes a health and human capital crisis, it remains stubbornly widespread in rural India. We present evidence from new survey data collected in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Many survey respondents' behaviour reveals a preference for open defecation: over 40% of households with a working latrine have at least one member who defecates in the open. Our data predict that if the government were to build a latrine for every rural household that lacks one, without changing sanitation preferences, most people in our sample in these states would nevertheless defecate in the open. Policymakers in India must lead a large-scale campaign to promote latrine use.

Safe Drinking Water in Slums

This article analyses the water, sanitation and hygiene situation in slum households and compares it with the non-slum urban households using data from the 2011 Census. It argues for a shift from the mere water supply coverage to an emphasis on quality water distribution. Intermittent water supply coupled with poor sanitation contributes to higher health risks. Promoting point-of-use water treatment and basic hygiene practices on safe handling and storage of water are important preventive health interventions. This article advocates for a shift from availability of infrastructure to delivery of service-level outcomes.

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