Since the launch of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) in 2014, sanitation has become a key focus area for the government, local authorities, corporates and philanthropists. The end goal of this project is to construct 120 million toilets in rural India, at a projected cost of INR1.96 lakh crore (US$29 billion).
While construction of toilets is certainly required, we need to look beyond and focus on the overall sanitation value chain involving waste treatment and the reuse of treated waste.
A survey by the National Sample Survey Office conducted between May and June 2015 found that out of 3,788 villages and 2,907 urban blocks, only 56.4% of the urban wards have a sewer network. Around 80 per cent of the sewage in India flows into rivers, lakes and ponds, thereby polluting these water bodies. India spends almost INR1.15 lakh crore (US$17 billion) a year treating water-borne diseases.
This calls for the involvement of the government and other key stakeholders across the entire sanitation value chain. Corporates and philanthropists in particular play a key role in ensuring that there are adequate sanitation facilities and the entire value chain is examined and improved.