No Toilet for Majority in Jharkhand

Savita Devi, a 40-year-old woman near Hazaribagh in Jharkhand continue to walk than half a kilometer to fetch water. She also has to find a concealed spot to defecate as she has no toilet at home. She says, “Just because we are poor, it does not mean that we do not deserve to libe with dignity. But no government thinks about the poor.”

Her words resonates the voice of more than half the population of Jharkhand. This new state in Eastern India which was carved out of Bihar in 2000 is still trying to cope with basic issues of water and sanitation. Jharkhand, which boasts of industrial centres like Dhanbad, Bokaro and Hazaribagh has got a black mark in the Census 2011 report. This issue was highlighted by international ngo WaterAid on the occasion of International World Water Day which is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The global theme of this year’s World Water Day is Linking water with Nutrition.

As per the latest census report, the state of Jharkhand which is also a predominantly tribal belt, 92.4% households in the rural areas have no toilet facility and sanitation. Even today in Jharkhand, 31.9% of women still continue to walk more than half km to fetch water drinking water compromising on their dignity due no toilet facility in their home. 

In terms of availability of water as per census 2011 in Jharkhand for 47.3% handpump/tube well are the main source for drinking water and still 31.9% of HH has walk far away to fetch water (more than 500m in rural area and 100m in urban areas as per government policy). This means large number of women still have burden of fetching water from far away sources. In rural areas of Jharkhand 50.6% use handpump for drinking water and 42.0% use well water of which 40.3% of well are uncovered. Thus the whole question of availability of water does not ensure portability of safe drinking water.  

The situation becomes worst when it comes to availability of toilet facility at HH level. In state of Jharkhand as per census 2011, 78% of HH have no latrine. In terms of rural sanitation coverage as per census 2011 data 92.4% HH have no toilet facility and in urban areas 32.8% HH lack toilet facility. According to the online MDWS figures 69.93% HH lack toilet facility. Thus there is difference of 31.47% between rural sanitation coverage as reported in census 2011 and MDWS online figures.

In fact, the Census 2011 released in March 2012 by the Government of India presents a grim picture of world’s third fastest growing economy with its abysmal status of drinking water and sanitation. This was inspite of the fact that the Union budget for 2012-13 had announced an increase of 27 per cent in the allocation for rural drinking water and sanitation. The budget for this year went up to Rs 14,000 crore from Rs 11,000 crore last year and the rural sanitation programme has got a whopping increase over 100 percent up from last year Rs 1650 crore to Rs 3500 crore.

On 17th March, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his speech in the Lok Sabha said, “Along with water quality, poor sanitation is one of the factors contributing to malnourishment.” Following the decision taken in the Prime Minister’s National Council on India’s Nutritional Challenges, a multi-sectoral programme to address maternal and child malnutrition in selected 200 high burden districts is being rolled out during 2012-13. It will harness synergies across nutrition, sanitation, drinking water, primary health care, women education, food security and consumer protection schemes.

As the world celebrates World Water Day 783 million people still live without this essential service, over 1 in 10 across the globe. WaterAid has been striving to support poor people get access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene has called for every person in the world to have safe drinking water within a generation as people around the globe commemorate World Water Day. Indira Khurana of WaterAid India said, “Ensuring that everyone on the planet has clean water to drink would rank as one of the great achievements of humankind. Delivering upon this human right would also improve public health and drive economic development. Meeting the Millennium Development Goal on water by providing access to 2 billion more people in the last twenty years shows what can be achieved. However we must not lose sight of the 783 million people who still have no choice but to drink unsafe water.

Variation of data:

There appears to be considerable variation between the data reported in the Census and the data reported in the official government site for the same time period. Clearly the monitoring system needs to be made more robust. The table below indicate the variation in terms of WASH coverage especially in rural areas. In addition to the above variation of data recently on 6th March to assess progress made MDG target Joint Monitoring Programme for Water and Sanitation (JMP) was released by UNICEF and WHO which again reconfirm that sanitation is still a challenge and India is lagging by 11 years to meet MDG target by 2015, 59% of those defecating in the open: a whopping 626 million! 

The table below gives comparison between different data sets at national level. 

JMP 2012
(Estimates based
as on Dec 2010)
Census 2011
(House Listing & Housing Census data: Period
Feb 2010 to Sep 2010)
(Jan 99– Dec 2010)
National Drinking Water Coverage 92% 82.4%  90%
(As on Date)
National Sanitation Coverage 39% 30.7% 74% (As on Nov 2011)
Open Defecation (National) 61%
(67% Rural; 14% Urban)
Rural Sanitation Coverage 33% 30.9% 53.09%
Urban Sanitation Coverage 86% 81.6% NA *
Rural Drinking Water Coverage 90% 77.9% Approx 70%
Urban Drinking Water Coverage 97% 91.9% NA *

* NA = Not available

From the above table which clearly indicates that in terms rural sanitation coverage according to Census 2011, 30.9% of HH have latrine facility whereas the online data of MDWS from January 1999 to December 2010 quote that 53.09% HH have toilet facility. Thus from the data it shows that there is difference of 23.2% in no. of HH having latrine facility reported in MDWS which is higher than census 2011 data. Thus there is need for better monitoring system required for online reported figures on MDWS. Khurana adds, “A hike in the budget is good news, but experience indicates,only hiking budgets is clearly not enough.  As state after state are unable to utilise the funds and quality of construction, lack of water and usage is a serious challenges, considerable efforts needs to be put in place to ensure that the funds are well spent. No longer can we afford to let people – especially children die of waterborne disease.”   

Overall in terms of rural sanitation coverage Jharkhand (92.4%), Odisha (85.9%), Chhattisgrah (85.5%), Madhya Pradesh (86.9%) and Bihar (82.4%) has large number of HH with no latrine facility. The poor access to services also adds to poverty levels. Its no surprise that people in states like Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh continue to remain poor.  

Its time that all organisations put their energies together and reverse the situation in Jharkhand. Its only if we all work together collectively, supporting each other will we be able to bring about a change in this scenario. We must commit that drinking water and sanitation are human rights which must be provided to all.


More by :  Teresa Rehman

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