Open defecation in cities: A faltering India story

April 23, 2014: Despite significant public investment in urban sanitation, over 37 million people in Indian cities resort to open defecation. This column examines the existing information on open defecation in urban India, and finds that the most important determinant is access to on-premise toilets. Local government leadership, targeted and smart subsidies, stakeholder collaboration and innovative financing options can help increase such access and accelerate elimination of the problem. 

While India is home to about 11% of the world’s urban population, it has over 47% of the world’s population practicing open defecation (OD)1. India also fares worse than other countries at similar income levels (Asian Development Bank (ADB) 2009). 

The 2011 Census of India provides some startling results. Nearly 12% of urban households resort to OD and another 8% use public or shared toilet facilities2. The situation is far worse in smaller cities (population below 100,000), with OD rates around 22%. Though significantly less prevalent than in rural India, OD in urban settings poses more serious challenges. With higher population densities and a lack of safe spaces, OD affords little dignity and poses grave security risks for women. Moreover, recent literature suggests that OD causes stunting among Indian children, particularly in more dense urban areas (Ghosh et al. 2014, Rheingans et al. (2012), Spears 2013). 

Access to on-premise toilets in cities explains the OD variation across states

No state in India is OD free. However, the situation varies across states. Though this variation is influenced greatly by the state per capita income (Figure 1), there are two groups of outlier states. The first group comprises largely the North East states and Kerala, with lower OD rates despite their lower income levels. This group of states has achieved lower OD rates largely through increased access to on-premise toilets. Read More

23-04-2014 | Posted by Admin