‘Sanitation’ is a broad term that includes disposal of human excreta, waste water, solid wastes, domestic and personal hygiene. Human excreta is the cause of many enteric diseases including cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid, infectious hepatitis and hookworm. Studies reveal that over 50 strains of infections can be transmitted from person-to-person via various direct or indirect means contributing to 80% of diseases in developing countries worldwide.
814 million out of a population of 1.2 billion people in India lack basic sanitation facilities, resulting in high mortality and morbidity (Census 2011). Inadequate sanitation in India is due to poor education and a lack of affordable sanitation technology. Minimal awareness of the environmental benefits of sanitation has resulted in poor participation of the population in sanitation programmes; this is particularly prevalent in disadvantaged socio-economic groups where it is not a “felt need” for them. India needs skilled labourers and technical manpower providing area-specific technology and supporting delivery systems in order to alleviate this. Indian society and traditional culture values personal hygiene, however little emphasis is placed on a clean and healthy community environment. Human excreta is regarded as taboo; one is expected to bath immediately after using the toilet and before preparing food. Sanitation is individualized and not a collective obligation of the community. In this socio-cultural background, environmental sanitation has been given the lowest priority.
In developed countries, it is standard practise for sewerage to remove human waste. In India, due to financial constraints, exorbitant maintenance and operational costs, sewerage is unfeasible for human waste management.
Kolkata was the third city in the world to introduce sewerage systems in 1870, despite that, 80% of towns and cities still lacks sewerage systems.
In developing countries, neither the government nor beneficiaries can carry the total capital expenditure of operational & maintenance costs of sewerage systems, nor are skilled workers and effective management available to run such processes.
2 gallons of water is required to flush away human excreta. Rivers in India are heavily polluted with untreated domestic sewage from cities, impacting groundwater filters and infecting communities.
Septic tanks are an expensive alternative and require 12-14 litres per flush. Drinking water is scarce in most urban areas, therefore water conservation is a priority. Septic tanks also require periodic cleaning as Inadequate disposal leads to mosquito-breeding, an odorous environment and health-risks.