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Sikkim becomes first state to achieve 100% sanitation

India still needs to build 78 new toilets every minute over the next four years to meet the government’s ambitious sanitation target under the Nirmal Gram Yojana, or Total Sanitation Campaign

Sikkim, the second smallest state of India, was recently declared a ‘Nirmal State’ for being completely free of open defecation. It was honoured with a gold medal by Indian President Pratibha Patil for setting an example for others states to follow. 

“I congratulate Sikkim for becoming a state with 100% sanitation facilities and I hope that other states will follow suit,” said Patil while handing over the medal to the state’s Chief Minister Pavan Chamling at a function in Pune on December 8, 2008.

  Sikkim’s achievement is being hailed as a major step forward in a country with a major sanitation problem, although at 7,096 sq km, the thumb-shaped state is merely 0.22% of India’s total area. Sikkim, nestled in the Himalayas, is also India’s least populous state. 

Over half-a-billion Indians do not have a toilet; one in two Indians, or around 650 million people, defecates out in the open. Untreated waste poses a serious health risk. Last year, India added around 11 million toilets but the government wants the rate of construction to increase considerably.  

Indeed, the country needs to build 78 new toilets every minute over the next four years to meet the government’s ambitious sanitation target under the Nirmal Gram Yojana or Total Sanitation Campaign .

As part of the campaign, the central government provides incentives to top performing states -- the criterion being 100% household sanitation coverage, toilet blocks in schools and anganwadis, and overall liquid and solid waste management. 

The objective is to promote rural sanitation, especially to eliminate the practice of open defecation and reward panchayati raj institutions (gram panchayats, panchayat samitis, zilla panchayats), individuals and institutions for efforts to achieve total sanitation. The incentive varies between Rs 50,000 and Rs 50 lakh, depending on the population.  

Nirmal Gram Puraskars (awards), launched in 2002, have received a tremendous response from villages. This year, Maharashtra topped the list by bagging the award for 4,302 gram panchayats in the state. Other states to receive maximum incentives for ridding villages of open defecation are Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

At the awards function, Patil said: “Sanitation and good hygiene practices reflect the quality of life of the people. Consumption of unsafe drinking water, improper sanitation facilities and lack of personal and food hygiene are the root causes of many diseases like diarrhoea, polio and typhoid. Lack of sanitation in rural areas is one of the major causes of child and adult mortality and morbidity.”  

2008 has been declared International Year of Sanitation, with the goal of raising awareness and accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of 2.6 billion people without access to basic sanitation, by 2015.  

Despite the huge numbers, Unicef’s regional adviser on water and sanitation in South Asia, Bill Fellows, said this was possible. “There has been an exponential increase (in the number of toilets built) in the past few years and if that rate of increase continues, we’ll meet the target,” he said. 

According to Unicef, only 22% of rural populations and 59% of urban populations in India had access to adequate sanitary facilities until 2004.  

Source: The Indian Express, December 9, 2008
            Press Information Bureau, December 2008
            www.ipsnews.net, December 2008