What is Rural Sanitation strategy, Meaning, Program, Strategy

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Sanitation strategy is the process of providing facilities , services and provisions for the safe disposal of human waste. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), about 60% of world’s open defection takes place in India. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of diseases world-wide.

The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, launched the Ten year Rural Sanitation Strategy (2019-29) in September, 2019. It focuses on sustaining the sanitation and behaviour change that has been achieved under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G), ensuring that no one is left behind and increasing access to solid and liquid waste management. For this, Government divided all the areas into three categories

• ODF An area can be declared as Open Defecation Free (ODF), if not even a single person is found defecating in the open at any point of the day.

• ODF+ If the area is declared as ODF and all community and public toilets are functional and well maintained at any point of the day.

• ODF++ If the area is already declared as ODF + and the faecal sludge/septage and sewage are safely managed and treated with no discharging or dumping of untreated faecal sludge into the open drains, water bodies or areas.

Earlier Sanitation Programmes

Several sanitation programmes had been in operation in the country from 1986 onwards, but their achievements were slow and unsatisfactory. Throughout the Indian history from Patanjali’s philosophy to the writings of Vivekananda and the Gandhian concept of sanitation, the emphasis on sanitation has always been integral to India’s cultural foundation. Though built on a history of understanding the relevance of sanitation, marginal concern was accorded to it among human settlements developed in the pre-independence period under British rule. Then, in 1986, the Government of India launched the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), the first nationwide sanitation programme.

Several other nationwide Sanitation Programmes have been launched since then, such as the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), 1999 in rural India and Basic Services for Urban Poor (BSUP), 2005 and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in urban India.

Present Scenario

After the launch of SBM-G in 2014, over 10 crore toilets have been built in rural areas and over 5.9 lakh villages, 699 districts and 35 States/UTs have declared themselves Open Defecation Free (ODF). The Ten year Rural Sanitation Strategy lays down a framework to guide gram panchayats, policy makers, implementers and other stakeholders in their planning for ‘ODF Plus’ status in which everyone uses a toilet and every village has access to solid and liquid waste management. Before 2014, less than 50% households in the country had access to sanitation facilities (even lesser in rural areas), only 30% of the generated wastewater and sewage was treated before being discharged into rivers and streams and about four lakh children each year died of diseases such as cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea or suffered from stunted growth as a result of poor sanitation

Ten Year Sanitation Strategy: The ODF Plus Strategy

The current ODF Plus Strategy is different from the earlier programmes, as it has given a major role to the Gram Panchayats in waste management. Further, it is aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to clean water and sanitation, which were both missing in earlier programmes. Two salient features of the rural sanitation strategy are to sustain the gains made under SBM-G and to achieve a clean living environment with solid and liquid waste management.

The first element of the ODF Plus Strategy is sustained usage of individual household latrines on a continual basis. One problem with usage of rural household latrines has been non-a n-availability of piped water or continual source of water to ensure cleanliness of household latrines. This is related to the Jal Jeevan Mission of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, under which piped water supply to all rural households will be ensured by 2024.

Other elements of the ODF Plus Strategy include ensuring that no one is left behind from earlier Sanitation Programmes, providing sanitation access to new households, sanitation coverage of public spaces through public and community toilets, implementation of solid and liquid waste management in rural areas and maintenance of visible cleanliness.

Role of Gram Panchayat

Gram Panchayats will be the key in realising ODF Plus with support from Village Water and Sanitation Committees. It will be responsible for ensuring ODF sustainability, adoption of solid and liquid waste management and continuation of sanitation behaviour as well as monitoring for slippages.

The Gram Panchayats will conduct rapid assessment of water and sanitation gaps and develop plans with the involvement of the community to address the gaps. They will create management systems for the operation and management of sanitation services and sensitise communities for contributing funds towards the required infrastructure.

Measures to be Taken Under the Strategy

Waste management through ODF Plus Strategy will take place in the areas of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste management, greywater management and Fecal Sludge Management (FSM). Non-biodegradable household waste management will focus on plastic waste, as it is a major problem today.

Greywater is the waste water generated from water used in the kitchen, for bathing and washing clothes. It stagnates, leading to breeding to the mosquitoes and incidence of diseases. It may reach ponds, lakes and rivers, causing both microbial and chemical pollution. Fecal Sludge Management will include construction of FSM treatment plants for village clusters or using existing Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) facilities of nearby urban areas.

While the sanitation infrastructure is being upgraded, the village population will need to change their information, education and communication strategy. It means giving messages through the mass media such as radio, TV, newspapers, etc at Central and State levels for reinforcing behaviour change and continued inter-personal communication at the household level to sustain the usage of toilet and for use of overall safe sanitation practices.

Further, the capacity of the rural communities will be strengthened through a number of measures. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) will hel to enhance skills in sanitation and allied sectors. Each state and district will have a Training Management Unit (TMU) to provide oversight and support to the capacity strengthening interventions. The district level TMU shall have the responsibility of imparting training at the Block level for all the Gram Panchayat functionaries.

Sustaining the gains from SBM-G and moving towards ODF Plus, require high managerial and operational competence to ensure sustainability and utilisation of investments in sanitation. In addition, government funding will remain the prima source of financing in the sanitation sector. However, encouraging alternate mean: of financing is an important focus area to ensure sustainable financing of sanitation in rural India. Monitoring and evaluation on a regular basis of the success of all these measures is necessary.

Thus, sample surveys will be conducted by an independent verification agency to assess issues related to continued usage of toilets, sustainability of ODF villages and progress on solid and liquid waste management.


The goal of Sanitation project is to understand the success of government’s rural sanitation scheme from the view of coverage, equity, accountability, efficiency and health. All these plans and programmes of the government cannot be sustained without the active participation of the rural dwellers. It therefore, goes without saying that for sustaining India’s 100% ODF over the next ten years, it will have to become a Jan Andolan.

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