Ranjan K Baruah
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
WORLD TOILET DAY
Being clean and hygienic is a must for any individual. In recent years we have seen many changes in our country when it comes to cleanliness. The effort of the government and community is commendable all over the country. Safe sanitation is needed to avoid ill health. Over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safe sanitation and around 297,000 children under five – more than 800 every day – die annually from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor hygiene, poor sanitation or unsafe drinking water.
There is no alternative to sustainable sanitation and without safely managed, sustainable sanitation, people often have no choice but to use unreliable, inadequate toilets or practice open defecation. Even where toilets exist, overflows and leaks from pipes and septic systems, and dumping or improper treatment, can mean untreated human waste gets out into the environment and spreads deadly and chronic diseases such as cholera and intestinal worms.
There are efforts from the Government of India to ensure that every household can have their toilets and make the areas free from open defecation. In a bid to help break taboos around toilets and make sanitation for all a global development priority, the United Nations designated 19 November as World Toilet Day (WTD). The resolution declaring the Day titled "Sanitation for All" (A/RES/67/291) was adopted on 24 July, 2013, and urged UN Member States and relevant stakeholders to encourage behavioural change and the implementation of policies to increase access to sanitation among the poor, along with a call to end the practice of open-air defecation, which it deemed extremely harmful to public health. Sanitation is also a question of basic dignity and women safety, who should not risk being victims of rape and abuse because of lack of access to a toilet that offers privacy.
An important milestone in this aspect is the current Water Action Decade (2018-2028) that will accelerate efforts towards meeting water-related challenges, including limited access to safe water and sanitation, increasing pressure on water resources and ecosystems, and an exacerbated risk of droughts and floods. This year's theme on the occasion of WTD remarks the importance of "sustainable sanitation and climate change".
Climate change is accelerating. Flood, drought, and rising sea levels are threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to treatment plants. Floodwater can contaminate wells used for drinking water or flooding might damage toilets and spread human waste into communities and food crops, causing deadly and chronic diseases.
Toilets can help us to fight climate change too! Wastewater and sludge from toilets contain valuable water, nutrients, and energy. Sustainable sanitation systems make productive use of waste to safely boost agriculture and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy. But, what is exactly a sustainable sanitation system? Sustainable sanitation begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible, and dignified setting. The waste then gets stored in a tank, which can be emptied later by a collection service, or transported away by pipe work. The next stage is treatment and safe disposal. Safe reuse of human waste helps save water, reduces and captures greenhouse gas emissions for energy production, and can provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.
Everyone has the right to proper sanitation and behavior change is equally important to adjust with changes. Hand washing and uses of toilets are possible when behaviour changes take place. Many organizations are working in this regard. The recent pandemic has taught us that we must maintain certain things if we want to remain healthy.
(With direct inputs from UN publication)