Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Venue: Institute of Life Science -Kalinga Hospital Road

The United Nations (UN) and the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal-16) recognize access to safe water and sanitation as a human right and aim to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. At the same time, the benefits of access to water and sanitation can not be fully realized withoutpropoer adherence to good hygiene practices. Due to their interdependent nature, these three core issues are viewed as one sector.

However, despite much efforts by the Government of India strating from its Central Rural Sanitation Program (CRSP) 1986 to its Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), sanitation is yet to be treated as a serious developmental issue in Odisha. The current activities are largely confined to service delivery, mainly to toilet construction. Solid and liquid waste management remain largely ignored.

Similarly, while safe drinking water has been a major concern for the Government of India (GoI) since its Accelerated Rural Drinking Water Programme 1972 continuing to its ongoing National Rural Drinking Water Programme 2009, irrespective of whether the service is being provided in a ‘supply driven manner’ or in a ‘demand driven manner’. Hygiene has always received the lowest priority with little accountability.

The inability thus far, of government and civil society interventions, to change age old habits while delivering WASH related services, results in large number of citizens, especially the excluded and marginalized dying from preventable diseases like diarrhea. Acute poverty, lack of awareness, and gae-old social practices make the situation even more alarming for Odisha, where its specific topography and climate increase its vulnerability to epidemics caused by bacteriological contaminations. Of late, chemical and physical contamination of depleting drinking water sources and increased industrial pollution have been complicating the situation further. There is a need for urgent attention to the status of WASH in the State.

Discussion Points:

  • How can the effectiveness of the ongoing sanitation drive in both rural and urban areas be enhanced to ensure last mile service delivery?
  • What can be done to look at sanitation holistically, by acting beyond toilet construction?
  • How can drinking water security be ensured in both rural and urban areas where water resources are increasingly depleting, coupled with an equal increase in demands for what is available?
  • What can PRIs do to play a more proactive role in creating water-secure rural communities?
  • Which actions, by different stakeholders, can help bring hygiene to the foreground?
  • What needs to be done to move beyond facility creation (hygiene) and fix accountability for hygiene related agenda?