Implementation, budget changes needed for Swachh Barat to work

By Alys Francis 17 August 2015

Portable toilets along the seafront in Pondicherry, India. Aid workers fear that the subsidy families receive to build toilets is acting as a barrier to lasting behavioral change. Photo by: Matthew Stevens / CC BY-NC-ND

Nearly a year into India’s ambitious plan to end open defecation by 2019 and nongovernmental organizations fear it’s being derailed by an overwhelming focus on building toilets instead of changing behavior.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the $31 billion Swachh Bharat mission in October, which aims to make more than 110 million toilets in five years.

“It’s supposed to be a demand-driven program, demand creation followed by toilet construction,” said Nitya Jacob, head of policy at WaterAid. But he said government workers implementing the mission were under immense pressure to hit annual targets, which means, “It’s just toilet construction to meet the target and not the other way round.”

Currently home to 60 percent of the world’s population defecating outdoors, India’s been trying to roll out sanitation since 1986, when its first national program launched. Since then, coverage has grown at slightly over 1 percent a year without variation, despite various reforms to the program.

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About the author

Alys Francis

Alys Francis is a freelance journalist covering development and other news in South Asia for international media outlets. Based in India, she travels widely around the region and has covered major events, including national elections in India and Nepal. She is interested in how technology is aiding development and rapidly altering societies.

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