Sanitation is a major national problem in India, requiring urgent action, especially given the rapid rate of urbanization expected in the coming decade:
"India’s urban sanitation sector is presently inadequate and the situation could worsen in the coming decades unless acted upon immediately.
In 2008, around 423 cities in India did not meet the sanitation standards.
"Around 40% of the cities needed a complete sanitation infrastructure overhaul, while the rest needed to make drastic improvements immediately. The inadequacies of the urban sanitation sector are felt most acutely by the poor, specifically those that live in makeshift homes or slums.
"In the next 2-3 decades, the following factors could influence a positive outcome:
"• Government endeavours: India has put into place several policies that are aimed at evaluating and improving sanitation conditions across the country. In the urban sector, this includes a drive to eliminate all slums from India by 2014 and a National Urban Sanitation Policy, which aims to create awareness through exercises such as rating cities in India on their sanitation infrastructure.
"• Rate of improvement already shown: A marked improvement between 2002 and 2008-09 is visible in urban slums when considering indicators such as drainage facilities and toilets. Progress is slower among non-notified slums, indicating that slums which receive designation by municipal authorities are likely to improve more quickly than slums which do not. As more slums receive notification from
municipal authorities, they will receive facilities faster.
"• Support by NGOs and private institutions: Due to the far reaching impacts of sanitation, most importantly on human health and civic life, it is being worked on extensively by NGOs and the private sector. The best example of this is the Sulabh Sanitation Movement, which in India provides public toilets, as well as household toilets in under-privileged areas.
"The biggest obstacle to achieving universal sanitation in India will be the rate of urbanization. By 2020, the total urban population of the country will have gone up from 30% at present to 34% and by 2030, the urban population will account for 40% of the total population. Most of this will be due to increased rural to urban migration. Impoverished migrants will most likely end up in slums and makeshift homes, adding to the sanitation shortage. Unless taken into account, this may derail the plans made by the Indian government."
Adequate sanitation infrastructure is a key indicator of slum improvements globally, as well as a sign that an area may transition out of the slum category altogether, despite slum classifications being nonstandard around the world. The notion of a "slum-free India" is taken here with seriousness. Equally important to consider is the statistical and very real distinction in India between "notified" and "non-notified" slums, each with dramatically different development indicators. This distinction, not as clearly present in other national statistical data, demonstrates an effort on the part of the government to deal with slums in a systematic and development-focused way. Increasing urbanization, however, stands to thwart even the quickest of government actions to improve quality of life in Indian slums.
Strategic Foresight Group, Asian Horizons, Issue No: 8, October 2010. Page 2.
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