New Sanitation Award Creates Healthy Competition Among Indian Cities

Findings of a survey commissioned by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) that rate Indian cities on safe sanitation practices found none of India’s 423 Class-I cities (with a population of more than 100,000 ) is “healthy and clean” in terms of various sanitation parameters. Every two out of five cities “need immediate remedial action” in terms of sanitation facilities and were rated in the “red” category and more than half  need “considerable improvement” and fall in the black category.

Only four cities are found to be in the category of “recovering” in terms of sanitation facilities. These are Chandigarh at the top with a score of 73.480, followed by Mysore (70.650), Surat (69.080), and the New Delhi Municipal Corporation administered area (68.265). With a score of 16.750, Churu in Rajasthan is at the bottom of the list.
The study covers 423 cities, divided into five zones, representing 72 per cent of India’s urban population. The rankings are based on 19 sanitation parameters such as access to community toilets, safe management of human excreta, and solid waste collection and treatment. Four color codes have been assigned to the cities based on the points they obtained in the rating; red means the cities need 'immediate remedial action', black means 'need considerable improvement', blue means ‘recovering,’ green means ‘healthy and clean.’ A 'healthy and green city' would have required a score between 91 and 100.
Ratings of cities is an initiative that supports implementation of the National Urban Sanitation Policy launched in 2008, to  create healthy competition among cities as each strives to earn the glory of being a Nirmal Shahar (exemplary city) on a set of ratings that will determine its sanitation and healthy living status.
MoUD introduced a new benchmarking tool and award scheme in November 2009, aiming to address poor sanitation conditions in India’s urban areas. The scheme is aligned to larger goals of the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) which seeks to mobilize governments and civil society to transform urban India into community-driven Nirmal Shahars, or totally sanitized, healthy, and livable cities and towns.
The goal of Nirmal Shahar Puraskar is to encourage cities to strive for 100 percent access to sanitation facilities to all cities and 100 percent safe disposal of all city generated waste. The rating and award is based on the premise that improved public health and environmental standards are two outcomes that cities must ensure for urban citizens. In doing so, state governments and urban areas must adopt a holistic, city-wide approach while incorporating processes that help reach outputs pertaining to goals of the NUSP. 
The rating does not recognize mere inputs, hardware or expenditure incurred in urban sanitation, but assesses how these lead to achievements of intermediate milestones towards the final result of 100 percent safe disposal of wastes from the city on a sustainable basis (delivering public health and environmental outcomes and benefits to citizens).
The policy aims to ensure sustained public health and environmental outcomes for all cities by making them free of open defecation; providing adequate and properly maintained individual, community and public sanitation facilities, especially for the poor; ensuring safe and sanitary disposal of waste; altered mindsets, collective behavior change and health and hygiene practices, and re-oriented institutions that work collaboratively to achieve and sustain health and environmental benefits.
NUSP is operationalized on the basis of technical and financial assistance provided to States from the Government of India (GoI) in developing and implementing State Level Sanitation Strategies and introducing a prestigious National level Reward Scheme for Cities (Nirmal Shahar Puraskar) achieving measurable milestones in becoming sanitized, livable Nirmal Shahars.
Rating of Cities: Methodology
The comparative rating of cities on 19 sanitation indicators is currently being carried out in 441 cities and towns with a population of more than 100,000. The indicators are based on output/process/outcome levels.
Cities will be rated on parameters such as complete elimination of open defecation, elimination of open scavenging, and safe collection and disposal of total human excreta. On the basis of the rating, cities will be classified as Red, Black, Blue or Green to denote increasing achievement of good environmental and health outcomes (red being the lowest and green the highest).
Table (1): City Colour Codes: Categories
Needing immediate remedial action
< 33
Needing considerable improvement
< 34 < 66
Recovering but still diseased
< 67 < 90
Healthy and Clean city
< 91 < 100
Each year if the city improves its ratings, it will be recognized and awarded “Nirmal Shahar Puraskar”. AC Nielsen, Development Research Services Pvt. Limited (DRS) and Centre for Environment Planning and Technology are facilitating the process. While the first two agencies are consulting firms, the third is a university.  The cities are divided into north, south, east and northeast, west and central, and south central.
The GoI has laid out clear steps for cities and states on how they must improve sanitation and the process they must follow before they can apply for the awards. Clearly, there has to be greater involvement, participation, and ownership from states in making their cities and urban spaces healthier and more livable.         
Step 1: Formation of City-wide Sanitation Plan and City Sanitation Campaign
A comprehensive baseline will guide the city sanitation campaign to mobilize stakeholders and raise awareness on 100 percent sanitation. Based on the baseline, the city will draw up and implement with support from State Government and GoI, a comprehensive City-wide Sanitation Plan to reach the goal of becoming a Nirmal Shahar.
Step 2: Implementation of Plan
The city will implement its City-wide Sanitation Plan to address gaps identified in the baseline and address goals set out in NUSP, prioritizing areas needing urgent attention, and implementing long-term plans. 
Step 3: Achievement of Milestones
Cities/urban areas that achieve sanitation outputs and outcomes and have systems and procedures in place to sustain these, will apply to their State Governments for verification and nomination for the national award.
Step 4: State-level Verification and Rewards
State government is responsible for supporting and supervising its cities to implement above steps. A State-level reward scheme (optional) may be instituted to promote competition among urban areas and launch state-level awareness campaigns to support cities’ efforts.
Step 5: State Recommendation to GoI
On thorough verification of applicant cities’ claim to the National Nirmal Shahar Award, State Government will recommend cities meeting the reward criteria, annually to MoUD, GoI.
Step 6: GoI Verification
MoUD will commission verification missions and independent evaluators or teams to verify cities’ claims.
Step 7: Criteria for Rewards
The National Urban Sanitation Advisory Group, constituted by MoUD, will be responsible for setting out and revising criteria for the Nirmal Shahar Puraskar. This Committee will be the final authority in deciding annual awards to applicant cities. 
As the rating in the first year only covers 441 cities, cities which have taken the initiative and have successfully implemented sanitation improvements in the past year will be recognized for their achievements under a special honor category.
Future plans
The rating is funded by GoI and will be scaled-up to cover all 5161 urban centers. The rating and rewards scheme will be an annual event, serving as an effective benchmark to monitor progress, and allow for healthy competition and thorough introspection around goals of the NUSP.
Contact: Vivek Raman