Maharashtra tops the charts in rural sanitation
New Delhi: Maharashtra clocked a record performance under the government's total sanitation campaign for rural areas. As many as 1,912 village local bodies of the state have, therefore, been selected to receive awards from President APJ Abdul Kalam on May 4, this year.
The state now has a number of open defecation-free villages, called nirmal grams, which is primarily a result of the success of village local bodies (panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) in creating awareness about sanitation. In 2005, only 13 PRIs in Maharashtra could achieve total sanitation. The number rose to 381 in 2005 and 1,912 in 2007.
Following Maharashtra is Uttar Pradesh, where only 40 PRIs recorded success in 2006 and 474 PRIs in 2007.
Rural India has little or no infrastructure for providing safe water and managing human waste, and harmful hygiene behaviors further complicate this crisis. The impacts are revealing: About 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are related to unsafe water. Diarrhea alone causes more than 1,600 deaths each day, especially among children.
The Government of India has established ambitious goals for providing potable drinking water and reducing infant mortality. RTI—through the World Bank-supported Evaluation of the Health Outcomes of the Rural Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Rural Maharashtra and Orissa, India—is helping to obtain critical knowledge on how to achieve these goals most effectively. The study began in 2004.
In the state of Maharashtra, RTI is conducting a comprehensive study of whether and how water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WSH) interventions improve the health of young children and rural livelihoods through comparisons over time of villages that participate in the Jalswarajya project with villages that do not. Jalswarajya is based on voluntary participation by communities to deliver rural water supply and sanitation services. The project offers a rare opportunity to systematically evaluate the health impacts of WSH interventions.
“We want to know the extent to which these interventions contribute to improvements in child health, especially diarrhea, and what social, institutional, and individual factors moderate the effects of these interventions,” said Subhrendu Pattanayak of RTI, principal investigator for the study. Interventions include increased water supply, water treatment, community solid and liquid waste management, toilet construction to reduce open defecation, and information and education to improve sanitation and hygiene practices.