IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


26th December, 2023 Geography


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  • A dive into sanitation solutions: processing, managing and treating used water.

About the News

  • Apart from the water we drink and consume through our food, we use water for cooking, cleaning ourselves and our homes, and washing clothes and utensils. Where does the used water from our homes go?
  • Common answers to this question are into the ground , into the open space around the house, into pipes underground or into open drains.
  • Some of these responses are not entirely wrong, but the key concern is where used water should go
  • It should go into sanitation systems designed to contain, covey, treat, and either dispose of or reuse the used water ensuring good public health and reducing environmental pollution.
  • While rudimentary sanitation was introduced by ancient civilisations around 4000 BC, the modern sanitation system was built in London around the 1800s.

What are the types of sanitation systems?

  • In rural areas or spacious urban residences, used water goes into twin pits or septic tanks, also known as on site sanitation systems (OSS), connected below ground to toilets.
  • While twin pits and septic tanks are widely used, other OSS types include bio-digester toilets, bio-tanks, and urine diversion dry toilets.

Key Facts

  • In 2022, 57% of the global population (4.6 billion people) used a safely managed sanitation service.
  • Over 1.5 billion people still do not have basic sanitation services, such as private toilets or latrines.
  • Of these, 419 million still defecate in the open, for example in street gutters, behind bushes or into open bodies of water.
  • In 2020, 44% of the household wastewater generated globally was discharged without safe treatment (1).
  • At least 10% of the world’s population is thought to consume food irrigated by wastewater.
  • Poor sanitation reduces human well-being, social and economic development due to impacts such as anxiety, risk of sexual assault, and lost opportunities for education and work.
  • Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as well as typhoid, intestinal worm infections and polio. It exacerbates stunting and contributes to the spread of antimicrobial resistance.Sanitation and health
  • Some 827 000 people in low- and middle-income countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene each year, representing 60% of total diarrhoeal deaths.
  • Poor sanitation is believed to be the main cause in some 432 000 of these deaths.
  • Diarrhoea remains a major killer but is largely preventable.
  • Better water, sanitation, and hygiene could prevent the deaths of 297 000 children aged under 5 years each year.
  • Open defecation perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty.
  • The countries where open defecation is most widespread have the highest number of deaths of children aged less than 5 years as well as the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty, and big disparities of wealth.

Benefits of improved sanitation

  • Benefits of improved sanitation extend well beyond reducing the risk of diarrhoea. These include:
  • Reducing the spread of intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma, which are neglected tropical diseases that cause su ering for millions;
  • Reducing the severity and impact of malnutrition;
  • Promoting dignity and boosting safety, particularly among women and girls;
  • Promoting school attendance: girls’ school attendance is particularly boosted by the provision of separate sanitary facilities; and
  • Potential recovery of water, renewable energy and nutrients from faecal waste.
  • A WHO study in 2012 calculated that for every US$ 1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of US$ 5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.


  • In 2013, the UN Deputy Secretary-General issued a call to action on sanitation that included the elimination of open defecation by 2025.
  • Achieving universal access to a basic drinking water source appears within reach, but universal access to basic sanitation will require additional e orts.
  • The situation of the urban poor poses a growing challenge as they live increasingly in mega cities where sewerage is precarious or non-existent and space for toilets and removal of waste is at a premium.
  • Inequalities in access are compounded when sewage removed from wealthier households is discharged into storm drains, waterways or landfills, polluting poor residential areas.
  • Limited data available on this topic suggests that a large proportion of wastewater in developing countries is discharged partially treated or untreated directly into rivers, lakes or the ocean.
  • Wastewater is increasingly seen as a resource providing reliable water and nutrients for food production to feed growing urban populations. Yet this requires:
  • Management practices that ensure wastewater is su ciently treated and safely reused;
  • Institutional oversight and regulation; and
  • Public education campaigns to inform people about wastewater use.

Steps taken via 10 year rural sanitation strategy

  • The strategy has been prepared by the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), Ministry of Jal Shakti, GoI in consultation with the State Governments and other stakeholders.
  • It lays down a framework to guide local governments, policy-makers, implementers and other relevant stakeholders in their planning for Open Defecation Free (ODF) Plus status, where everyone uses a toilet, and every village has access to solid and liquid waste management.
  • The strategy aims to sustain the behavioral change regarding sanitation that has been achieved under the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) and ensure that the focus is shifted to increasing access to solid and liquid waste management in the rural areas of the country.
  • The 10-year strategy also demands focused intervention through capacity strengthening, IEC (Information, Education, and Communication), organic waste management, plastic waste management, and water management.
  • Public financing has played an important role in the ODF journey but for the maintenance of toilets and infrastructure, the need is there for innovative models for sanitation financing.
  • With regard to waste management elements, there will have to be a convergence of funds from the Centre, states, Panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) and alternative sources of financing, including private funds.


Discuss the critical role of sanitation in achieving sustainable development and public health. Elaborate on the challenges faced in ensuring widespread access to sanitation facilities and propose effective measures for improvement.