Ganga Datta Nepal
Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through the prevention of human contact with the hazards of wastes. Such hazards can be physical, microbiological, biological or chemical agents of disease. Wastes that can cause health problems are human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic wastewater, industrial wastes, and agricultural wastes. Hygienic means of prevention can be possible only by engineering solutions by sewerage and wastewater treatment process. Simple technologies like construction of toilets/septic tanks, or even by personal hygiene practices like simple hand washing with soap. There are five different sanitation practices: Basic sanitation-the management of human feces at the household level; on-site sanitation-the collection and treatment of waste is done where it is deposited;. food sanitation-the hygienic measures for ensuring food safety; environmental sanitation-the control of environmental factors that form links in disease transmission i.e. solid waste management, water and wastewater treatment, industrial waste treatment and noise and pollution control; and ecological sanitation-a conceptual approach of recycling to nature the nutrients from human and animal wastes.
Globally, it is only five years more to go to achieve the MDG target; still 2.6 billion people do not use improved sanitation. In Nepal, about 54% of the total populations do not have access to toilets. Access to toilets in Nepal is very low and actual use is even lower. The practices of rampant open-air defecation particularly in the Terai has badly contaminated the water bodies and put public health at stake; annually more than 13,000 children under five years of age die of water-borne diseases due to poor hygienic and sanitary condition.
Because of its implication on public health, poverty reduction, economic and social development, and the environment, the Government of Nepal (GoN) has set a national target to provide basic sanitation facilities to all by 2017.
To fulfill this target also to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; GoN is working in collaboration with different UN agencies, especially WHO, UNICEF and UN-Habitat as well as I/NGO’s, private sector organizations, academic institutions.
The actual scenario shows about one-third of the 75 districts have sanitation coverage of less than 20% (10 districts in the Tarai and 14 in the hills and mountains).
The coverage among the rich people is 80% whereas it is just 12% among the poor. Similarly, the coverage in rural areas is 21% and 53% in urban areas. Among the public and community schools, only 41% of them have toilet facilities. However, only two-thirds of the schools have sufficient facilities and one-fourth have separate facilities for girls.
Nepal continues to bear the loss of some Rs. 10 billion annually in terms of health expenses, loss of productivity and adverse effects on tourism due to poor hygiene and environmental sanitation. Children and women among the poor and disadvantaged communities are the most affected. It has given a great setback to the dignity, identity and pride of the people. Some barriers and challenges for the slow progress on hygienic sanitation could be summarized as follows: There is a lack of uniform approaches on financing for hygiene and sanitation It is least prioritized within the national budget, and investment in the water and sanitation sector is inadequate to keep pace with the overall rise of global aid. That has made mainstreaming poor, disadvantaged and high risk group difficult.
There is big challenge on solid and liquid waste management in urban areas. Moreover, there is inadequate coordination among the sector actors/stakeholders.
If the present scenario continues, the sanitation coverage will reach 60% of the total population against the MDGs of 53% by 2015. The trend also shows that sanitation coverage will reach 62% against the national target of 100% by 2017.These figures show that Nepal can easily achieve the sanitation MDG but has a great challenge to meet the national target; which requires almost a double increment of the present slow trend of construction of toilets. In this context, the new zero-subsidy approach the Community Led Total Behavior Change (TBC) in Hygiene and Sanitation follows is based on the principles of Community Led Total Sanitation approach (CLTS) wherein communities are facilitated to take their own action to become open defecation free (ODF). The objective of this concept is that the community people will practice five key hygienic behaviors.
However, it is necessary to have the strong commitment from GoN as well as all sector stakeholders to achieve the national target. There is still confusion over the subsidy vs non-subsidy approach for the construction of household toilets. Past experiences have shown that, the subsidy policy for construction of toilets has not proven to be effective because it does not ensure ownership.
Nepal is Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Adviser