Squatting Rights: Access to Toilets in Urban India

Urban Sanitation | Mar, 2013

India accounts for 59% of the 1.1 billion people who defecate in the open worldwide. This problem is concentrated in India’s urban slums, where populations have tripled in the last three decades, intensifying the strain on already insufficient urban resources. Dasra’s report, Squatting Rights, focuses on urban sanitation systems in India and demonstrates how strategic philanthropic funding can go a long way in providing the urban poor with access to improved sanitation and ensuring healthy, prosperous cities.

The problem of poor sanitation infrastructure in urban slums has many components: health, education, infrastructure, as well as issues of adoption and gender equality. But solutions in sanitation have a high return on investment, where every USD 1 spent on better sanitation delivers an average of USD 5 in social, health and economic benefits. Beyond this, improving hygiene through activities such as hand-washing at critical times can reduce morbidity due to diarrhea by 44%.

Squatting Rights outlines key focus areas to provide universal urban sanitation in India. It states that it is vital to adopt a gendered approach to sanitation. In addition, the report finds that the most affordable, accessible and effective way to promote hygiene is by educating communities about the life-saving potential of simple cleanliness, and its role in helping populations realize the full return on infrastructure investments. Also, it is important to identify and foster champions for sanitation in government, who will enable favourable policy environments, cut through red tape and drive the sanitation agenda to ensure long-term, large-scale impact.

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