Government of India Launches New Urban Sanitation Policy

Changing mindsets is often harder than changing technology. In a new initiative, the Government of India emphasizes behavioral change, alongside technological advances, as the key to effective sanitation. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has announced an award plan, as part of this initiative, to motivate cities and urban local bodies to achieve total sanitation. The Nirmal Shahar Puraskar (Clean Cities Award), designed along the lines of the rural sanitation rewards scheme, honors cities that achieve total sanitation, including open defecation-free (ODF) status and 100 percent safe waste disposal.
At a national workshop to launch the policy, Mr. M. Ramachandran, Secretary, MoUD, said, The policy attempts to address the many institutional issues, the plight of the urban poor, especially the manual scavengers, the lack of awareness on sanitation, integrated planning, and the lack of technical knowhow and capacity- which causes most of our infrastructure facilities to not operate efficiently.”
According to the 2001 Census, almost 26 percent of urban households do not have access to sanitation, and untreated waste water from households accounts for 80 percent of the pollution of surface water. The MoUD consulted widely in formulating the national urban sanitation policy in order to tackle these issues. In 2005, an inter-ministerial national task force on universal sanitation in urban areas was formed to frame the national policy. Representatives included other ministries and states, along with academics and NGOs to formulate a holistic, pragmatic solution to the sanitation challenge in India.
A national task advisory group on urban sanitation has been established to mobilize governments and civil society to create community-driven Nirmal Shahars, or totally sanitized cities and towns. The MoUD also developed guidance notes for states and cities to design strategies, detailing key institutional, financial, and social indicators required for implementation. States and cities must change collective behavior regarding sanitation to ensure sustainability of resources, and accountability for doing so is made local. WSP provided the MoUD with technical and logistic support.
A key highlight of the policy and the award plan is that the focus is not on infrastructure development alone but outcomes and behavior change. Under the policy, all states are required to develop state sanitation strategies according to the national guidelines. Six states have already started doing so, and one city has started a citywide sanitation planning process, also in line with the policy. 
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