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India leads global drop in open defecation

India leads global drop in open defecation

Also sees better access to safe drinking water  

India was responsible for the largest drop in open defecation since 2015, in terms of absolute numbers, according to a new report by the Wash Institute, a global non-profit organisation. 

Besides open defecation, the Joint Monitoring Report also emphasised universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 in achieving universal access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Within India, open defecation had been highly variable regionally since at least 2006, the report said. In 2006, the third round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) found open defecation to be practiced by less than 10 percent of the population in four states and the Union Territory of Delhi, but by more than half the population in 11 states.

By 2016, when the fourth round of the NFHS was conducted, open defecation had decreased in all states, with the largest drops seen in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, the report said.

The report also noted some progress towards the achieving SDG 6. Between 2016 and 2020, the global population with access to safely managed drinking water at home increased to 74 per cent, from 70 per cent.

SDG 6 states that ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030 entails that water must be accessible at source, available when needed and free from any contamination.

The report has shown an improvement in at-source water resources including piped water, boreholes or tubewells, protected dug wells, protected springs, rainwater and packaged or delivered water.

Water sources are considered ‘accessible on premises’ if the point of water collection is within the dwelling, compound, yard or plot, or is supplied to the household through piped supply or tanks.

Water is counted as ‘available when needed’ if households report having ‘sufficient’ water. For the purposes of global monitoring, drinking water is considered ‘free from contamination’ if the water is free and safe from contamination of bacteria like E coli.

There was an increase in safely managed sanitation services to 54 per cent, from 47 per cent between 2016 and 2020, the report said.

Onsite sanitation systems, a system in which excreta and wastewater are collected, stored and / or treated on the plot where they are generated, had shown a significant global increase, the report said.

Globally, access to safely managed sanitation services increased over the 2000-2020 period by an average of 1.27 percentage points per cent. 

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