up down

Flushing down defecation problems : India’s campaign against public defecation

04 Jul, 2018 News Center 1,186

Two lovers in love with one another. But she leaves him at the very first day of marriage. The reason – he doesn’t have an indoor toilet… The plot of a real-life Indian movie (“Toilet-A Love Story”) addresses a serious issue which is so dreadful in current Indian society – staggering 595 million continue to practice open defecation. SHARMA, Dinesh Kumar, KDI School’s MDP student, explains the reason why India’s sanitation needs more than toilets during his “Korean Economic Development” class on June 21st, 2018.

Despite the substantial economic growth, India is still suffering from the issue that is common among developing nations – almost 62% of the population are without access to adequate sanitation. It incurs fundamental losses to GDP, mainly tied to health issues like diarrhea, lower respiratory infection etc.

Open defecation happens not only because of lack of infrastructure but also because people’s belief based on conservative religious customs (regardless of social well-being) – it is unclean to defecate in the house, let alone a room.

The government had launched the ‘Swachh Bharat’ movement, led by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and is intended to end the sanitation crisis in India by 2019. Government is actively encouraging society through internship programs for raising youth awareness, displaying signs in schools emphasizing “toilets first, temples later” etc. Survey indicators show positive results of sanitation coverage for 2018. However, there is a lot to achieve ahead.

India has a number of things to learn from Korean experience in terms of this issue. Korea saw rampant changes in sanitation improvements during the “Toilet Revolution” in the 1980s, characterized by the availability of open toilet systems in public places, and was largely motivated by the hosting of 1988 Olympic Games. 2002 World Cup is considered to be the key point in Korean toilet improvement accompanied with the contest of “Beautiful Toilet”, ran by both public and private sectors. The trilateral cooperation among central government, municipalities, and the civil society resulted in 2004 “Public Toilets Act” which gave a base for systematic management of public toilets.

Dinesh emphasizes the importance of the strong leadership of the government as well as the cooperative actions of both civic and public institutions in dealing with the improvement of the sanitation system. Indeed, the most substantial work must be implemented in changing the perceptions and belief systems in people’s minds, which is totally achievable as in the successful case in Indian Nadia district, where public sector and people’s efforts brought 100% sanitation coverage to its 5.2 million people.   

SHARMA, Dinesh Kumar


Ranat RYSBEK (2017 MPP, Kyrgyzstan)