The uneven progress of sanitation in India

SandyProfessor Sandy Cairncross has recently collaborated with Arabinda Ghosh on a paper publish in the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for development. We asked Professor Cairncross to tell us more about this piece.

To read the full article click here.


Why is this article¬†important and what are it’s core¬†findings and recommendations?

No-one really knows why humanity has failed to reach the Millennium Goal for sanitation, except in terms of simplistic general answers. However, some countries have done so, or nearly done so, suggesting it was not impossible. This study – for which the hard work was done by Arabinda Ghosh and my job was to make it publishable – shows just how widely the progress of sanitation can vary, even within a single country with the same national policy and procedures.

We looked at census data from India which indicates that some states have already achieved an improved sanitation coverage of 90% or more, yet in others areas the proportion served is as low as 22%. There are also wide disparities between urban and rural households. Overall, more than 81.4% of urban households, but only 30.7% of rural households have a latrine. Coverage has increased by 10.5% over the decade from 2001. This progress also varied widely between states and between districts within each state; 6.3% of districts made negative progress during that period. This study looked at some of the causes of these differences and recommends ways to accelerate progress in the laggard states and districts. In particular this study found a close association between district sanitation coverage and female literacy, suggesting an important role for education.

We hope that, by getting the data in an accessible form, it will stimulate other researchers to look for the characteristics of those states of India which have been most effective in extending sanitation to all their people, and identify the secret of their success. Then we shall have not only an explanation of the failure to meet that MDG target, but more importantly a recipe for achieving the next sanitation goal, to be adopted in 2015.

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