Article in The Hindu: Is Swachhata only about litter?
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December 2014

OPM Senior Consultant, Dr. Ruhi Saith, writes about India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan programme in the Indian national newspaper, The Hindu.

A country-wide campaign to promote cleanliness, the Swachh Bharat programme was launched by the Indian Government in 2014. In her thought-provoking article, Dr. Saith considers the progress of the campaign to date as well as its role in supporting the development of national health policy. She asks whether the programme is simply a litter-picking exercise or a fundamental movement with the potential to reform public health…

Is Swachhata only about litter?

…“Slum districts...consisted of poorly built houses, a deficiency of ventilation and toilets, unpaved narrow streets, mud, and stomach-turning stenches due to the presence of decaying refuse and sewerage. In such conditions, ill health was observably endemic.”

This is not a description of Indian cities today (though it may well be), but of Britain around 150 years ago, prior to Britain’s sanitary reform movement, by Dr. James Kay-Shuttleworth. The movement that began in Britain and then spread to other industrialised countries like the United States was spurred in London by Edwin Chadwick’s report “Inquiry into the Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Populations of Great Britain”. The sweeping changes it brought about in the industrialised world are believed to have saved many lives and contributed to increases in life expectancy — much more than advances in medicine like antibiotics and vaccination.

A momentous opportunity

Given rapid urbanisation and similar conditions today in our cities and towns, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is a programme whose time has indeed come. It is a momentous opportunity that has opened up a policy window (having caught the attention of the media, legislators and the public), especially at a time when a new health policy is being framed. At present, the focus of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan seems to be on exhorting individuals not to litter. But the programme needs to retain the momentum of a movement rather than a litter-cleaning project. Besides, Purna Swachhata is not just about litter. As Professor A.K. Gosain, Professor of Civil Engineering at IIT Delhi, who is working on issues of urban sanitation, says, Purna Swachh requires three things to be addressed. The first is sewerage or wet waste generated from bathrooms, for which we need a proper system of sewers and sewerage treatment plants; the second is storm drainage or rain water, for which water tables need to be recharged through natural and man-made water drains which remain dry during the monsoons; and the third is solid waste which needs to be dealt with through landfill, incineration, and so on. Given the range of tasks that need to be undertaken, just sweeping litter from the roads under the carpet is not going to solve much…

Read the full article in The Hindu here

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Article in The Hindu: Is Swachhata only about litter?

December 2014

OPM Senior Consultant, Dr. Ruhi Saith, writes about India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan programme in the Indian national newspaper, The Hindu.

A country-wide campaign to promote cleanliness, the Swachh Bharat programme was launched by the Indian Government in 2014. In her thought-provoking article, Dr. Saith considers the progress of the campaign to date as well as its role in supporting the development of national health policy. She asks whether the programme is simply a litter-picking exercise or a fundamental movement with the potential to reform public health…

Is Swachhata only about litter?

…“Slum districts...consisted of poorly built houses, a deficiency of ventilation and toilets, unpaved narrow streets, mud, and stomach-turning stenches due to the presence of decaying refuse and sewerage. In such conditions, ill health was observably endemic.”

This is not a description of Indian cities today (though it may well be), but of Britain around 150 years ago, prior to Britain’s sanitary reform movement, by Dr. James Kay-Shuttleworth. The movement that began in Britain and then spread to other industrialised countries like the United States was spurred in London by Edwin Chadwick’s report “Inquiry into the Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Populations of Great Britain”. The sweeping changes it brought about in the industrialised world are believed to have saved many lives and contributed to increases in life expectancy — much more than advances in medicine like antibiotics and vaccination.

A momentous opportunity

Given rapid urbanisation and similar conditions today in our cities and towns, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is a programme whose time has indeed come. It is a momentous opportunity that has opened up a policy window (having caught the attention of the media, legislators and the public), especially at a time when a new health policy is being framed. At present, the focus of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan seems to be on exhorting individuals not to litter. But the programme needs to retain the momentum of a movement rather than a litter-cleaning project. Besides, Purna Swachhata is not just about litter. As Professor A.K. Gosain, Professor of Civil Engineering at IIT Delhi, who is working on issues of urban sanitation, says, Purna Swachh requires three things to be addressed. The first is sewerage or wet waste generated from bathrooms, for which we need a proper system of sewers and sewerage treatment plants; the second is storm drainage or rain water, for which water tables need to be recharged through natural and man-made water drains which remain dry during the monsoons; and the third is solid waste which needs to be dealt with through landfill, incineration, and so on. Given the range of tasks that need to be undertaken, just sweeping litter from the roads under the carpet is not going to solve much…

Read the full article in The Hindu here