Way Ahead in the Sweep Stakes
BEST ASIAN GOVERNMENT CLEANLINESS INITIATIVE BANGLADESH
Bangladesh has been a role model for the developing world for a number of reasons. Its most astonishing success is its near-total eradication of open defecation. In the 1990s, Bangladesh, like most of South Asia, grappled with poor sanitation issues. Nearly 42 per cent of the country’s 166 million people defecated in the open. Last year, that number crashed to just one per cent. A 2016 World Bank Study credits Bangladesh’s sanitation success to its Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative. Developed in the early 2000s, it works on behavioural change rather than toilet construction.
The CLTS approach begins with the idea that so long as even small numbers of the community defecate in the open, everyone is at risk. This triggers the community’s desire for change, motivates people and encourages innovation and appropriate local solutions, leading to greater ownership and sustainability. Bangladesh began its war against OD in 2003. The campaign was supported by up to 25 per cent of the country’s development budget. Last year, the initiatives cost the country $526 million.
India could learn a great deal from Bangladesh’s war on OD. According to the 2011 census, the states with the highest number of open defecators are Uttar Pradesh (129 million, 64 per cent), Bihar (80 million, 77 percent), Maharashtra (53 million, 47 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (52 million, 71 per cent), Rajasthan (45 million, 65 per cent). Other South Asian countries have much smaller numbers of people without toilets, mostly in rural areas: Pakistan (25 million, 13 per cent), Nepal (9 million, 32 per cent), Afghanistan (4 million, 13 per cent).
Bangladesh’s community-led approach is already being practised under the Swachch Bharat mission. Growing numbers of people are being roped into the initiative. The future is bright.