November 28, 2016
Bengaluru: We were all glued to the television to get a glimpse of Coldplay and AR Rahman sing VandeMataram together at the Global Citizen Festival, Mumbai. The festival harnessed the universal power of music,attracting world-famous artists including Jay Z and Demi Lovato, to elevate the cause of sanitation within the international development community. The Global Citizen campaign came to India to raise awareness against open defecation, highlighting the UN’s World Toilet Day mission.
So, what is World Toilet Day? “It is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis, a topic that is often neglected. Today, 2.4 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future – all for the want of a toilet,” says Harsh Agarwal, a social scientist working for the Planning Commission.
The UN launched the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015,which was to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to toilets by 2030, making it a global developmental priority. In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated November 19 as World Toilet Day. World Toilet Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with governments and partners.
Swachh Bharat Mission is working on the same challenges here in India. It is a mission to solve the country’s deep-rooted sanitation challenges. Since the Mission’s inception, the government of India has worked alongside community groups, NGOs, and development partners to end the scourge of open defecation and to ensure equal access to sanitation and hygiene for all. We have seen PM Modi with a broom. We have also heard him talk against open defecation through Mann Ki Baat.
The government has launched campaigns through various mass communication channels highlighting the negatives of open defecation and has encouraged villagers to build toilets. Showing remarkable progress, 89 lakh individual household latrines have been built in rural areas in the past one year.
According to government figures, the big Swachh Bharat push in rural areas has increased the access of toilets to 46.9% from only 32.6% in 2011 across the country. However, urban areas in poll-bound Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have built only 927 and 862 household latrines respectively since the sanitation mission was launched last October.
Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu was quoted saying that “the rural development ministry has surpassed the target of building about 60 lakhs by March 2016.A clean India is the most profound statement that the county can make to the world which is keenly watching us in the context of various initiatives launched during the last over one year.”
Echoing the same sentiment, Dr Suman Mor, Coordinator, Centre for Public Health, PU, sayson the occasion of World Toilet Day, “Sanitation is a global development priority as sustainable development goals (SDG) 2015 have included a target to ensure access to toilets to everyone by 2030.” She stressed that appropriate toilets are important for women and girls to ensure their privacy and dignity. She said that the theme for this year is ‘Toilets and Jobs,’ as lack of sanitation can significantly impact people’s livelihood.