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07NEWDELHI5102 2007-11-27 07:51:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

World Toilet Summit Puts Spotlight on Sanitation in India

Tags:   SENV TBIO SOCI KSCA IN 
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RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 NEW DELHI 005102 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES/PCI, OES/ENV, AND SCA/INS
HHS FOR OGHA STEIGER, HICKEY AND VALDEZ
NIH FOR GLASS AND MAMPILLY
CDC FOR BLOUNT AND FARRELL
STATE PASS TO NSF FOR INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TBIO SOCI KSCA IN
SUBJECT: World Toilet Summit Puts Spotlight on Sanitation in India


NEW DELHI 00005102 001.2 OF 004




1. SUMMARY: ESTHOff attended the 2007 World Toilet Summit from
October 31 - November 3 in New Delhi. The event was hosted by
Sulabh International Social Service Organization and sponsored by
the Government of India (GOI). The conference brought together
senior Indian government officials, NGOs and experts from 40
countries to discuss sanitation in developing countries, although
most presentations focused specifically on India. The Indian
Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation used the summit to
announce that the Planning Commission has submitted a new $150
million low cost sanitation plan to the Cabinet for approval. END
SUMMARY.



2. Worldwide, 2.6 billion people do not have access to toilet
facilities. This translates to 700 million Indians practicing open
urination and defecation, making it impossible to travel anywhere in
India, including the major cities, without witnessing the practice
countless times a day. The lack of sanitation assists the spread of
numerous diseases including cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, hepatitis,
intestinal worms, and polio. To combat the problem, the World
Toilet Summit adopted the Delhi Declaration on Sanitation which
includes numerous goals designed to provide improved sanitation
facilities to all. The text of the declaration can be found at
http://www.worldtoiletsummit2007.org/delhi_dr aft.php.



--------------------------


INDIAN MINISTERS TALK SANITATION


--------------------------





3. MINISTERIAL PRESENCE: The World Toilet Summit featured numerous
speakers from the GOI and from several state governments. The
Ministries of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Health and
Family Welfare, Rural Development, and Social Justice and
Empowerment were all represented at the ministerial level for the
inauguration ceremony. The former President of India, Dr. Abdul
Kalam, noted the significance of the presence of the four ministers,
observing that cooperation between the ministries is critical since
each holds responsibility for different aspects of improving
sanitation. The Ministry of Education was conspicuously absent, as
one American speaker, Dr. Tom Keating of Project Clean, highlighted
after much discussion about the poor condition or nonexistence of
toilet facilities in most government schools.



4. NEW SUBSIDY PLAN: Minister of State Kumari Selja of the
Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation announced that the
existing system of loans and subsidies for constructing toilets was
being "radically reformed" with a new $150 million program for low
cost sanitation involving a 75% subsidy to families constructing
toilets along with an emphasis on collaborating with NGOs. The plan
has been approved by the Planning Commission and now awaits approval
by the Cabinet. Minister Selja also noted all new houses built by
the GOI are now required to have a toilet.



5. PUBLIC EDUCATION: Insufficient public education regarding the
health impacts of poor sanitation remains a key problem in driving
the public demand for toilets. In a follow-up meeting, WHO
Sustainable Development and Environmental Health Officer A.K.
Sengupta commented that he had visited households that were being
paid by the GOI to show advertisements for India's Total Sanitation
Campaign (introduced in 1999) that did not have toilets. In such an
environment he argued, no amount of subsidy will solve the problem
until citizens speak out and demand improved toilet facilities.



--------------------------



--------------------------


INDIA AND MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOAL 7, TARGET 10


--------------------------



--------------------------





6. MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOAL (MDG): The GOI has set a goal of
meeting MDG 7, Target 10, by 2012, three years earlier than the
originally anticipated 2015. MDG 7, Target 10 aims to reduce by
half from 1990 levels the proportion of people without sustainable
access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation which is
defined as facilities that are likely to ensure privacy and hygienic

NEW DELHI 00005102 002.2 OF 004


use. As of 2004, 41% of India's urban population and 78% of its
rural population did not have access to improved sanitation
facilities. While this is a substantial improvement from 1990 when
the percentages were 55% and 97% respectively, it is still far from
reaching the goal. To address the issue, the GOI has increased
funding for its Total Sanitation Campaign by 43% from the previous
year to a total of INR 10.6 billion (approximately $271 million
USD). If the GOI can sustain this level of funding and if the
program is properly implemented, India will be on track to meeting
MDG 7, Target 10 by 2012, according to government estimates.



7. BEWARE STATISTICS: Dr. Kulwant Singh, Chief Technical Advisor
for the UN-HABITAT program Water for Asian Cities, warned officials
to look beyond the simple statistics to make sure the services were
actually being provided. He warned that the official statistics can
hide reality, such as when slums are considered to have sanitation
coverage, yet huge lines of people have to wait to use a small
number of toilets. This issue tends to arise most often when
toilets fall into disrepair and aren't fixed which is common. In
addition, Singh noted the figures represent the availability of
infrastructure rather than actual usage which can be misleading
considering the extraordinarily high prevalence of open urination
and defecation in India.



--------------------------


MAKING TOILETS "SEXY"


--------------------------





8. INTERNATIONAL AWARENESS: Conference delegates repeatedly
brought up the need to market sanitation, both to the end-users in
developing countries and in developed (donor) countries. Delegates
were enthusiastic about using the UN's designation of 2008 as the
International Year of Sanitation to increase awareness, with several
organizations planning advocacy programs. World Toilet Organization
President Jack Sim told conference delegates they need to help "make
toilets sexy," i.e., find ways to break down mental and cultural
barriers that prevent people from discussing sanitation and taking
the issue seriously.



9. MARKETING SANITATION: Innovative marketing experiences were
shared, such as UNICEF Indonesia's success in creating a "Clean
Friday" movement, in which UNICEF worked with Muslim religious
leaders to teach their followers about the importance of sanitation.
Another example utilized social pressure in the state of Orissa,
where a village painted on its town walls, "We will not marry our
daughters off to villages without toilets!" In addition, programs
that recognize village leaders who meet their sanitation targets
were also praised.



--------------------------


THE SCOURGE OF SCAVENGING


--------------------------





10. MINISTERIAL VIEWS: Minister of Social Justice and Employment
Meira Kumar noted the GOI had formally abolished manual scavenging
(the process of manually removing human excreta) and stated the GOI
aims to rehabilitate all scavengers by March 2009. (Comment:
Scavenging was banned by an Act of Parliament in 1993 but persists
in much of the country and will continue until the use of improved
sanitation facilities replace dry toilets. End Comment).
Unfortunately Minister Kumar did not provide details on how the GOI
would meet the fast-approaching deadline for this goal.



11. FAKE NUMBERS AND CONTRADICTIONS: Former Member of Parliament
Maneka Gandhi stated that the contradiction between the legal ban on
scavenging and the circumstances as they really exist has
unfortunate results such as discouraging district administrators
from admitting that there are scavengers in their district.
District administrators can be held personally responsible and
punished if scavenging is occurring in their district, resulting in
denial that scavenging is taking place or severe underreporting of
actual figures. According to Ms. Gandhi, the real tragedy is that

NEW DELHI 00005102 003.2 OF 004


funds appropriated for the rehabilitation of scavengers often go
unused.



--------------------------


GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS FAIL HEALTH


--------------------------





12. FAILING GIRLS: Conference participants repeatedly noted
sanitation statistics regarding the approximately 760,000 government
schools in India: 40-45% have clean water, 19% have urinals, and
only 8% have toilets. Boys typically practice open urination and
defecation outdoors but girls are often forced to "hold it" through
the day rather than risk the humiliation of being seen heeding
nature's call. (Comment: There appears to be no corresponding
stigma for boys or men who perform these acts constantly in public
view. End Comment). This is a major factor contributing to the
high dropout rate of girls from government schools and the low
literacy rate among women (48% for women as opposed to 73% for men.)
However, Sulabh International noted student health clubs, which
focus on sanitation, are now present in schools in 8-10 states and
that some schools in Gujarat are now teaching their students about
sanitation and the "dignity of labor" in an effort to address the
social stigma surrounding the issue.



--------------------------


CONSERVING RESOURCES AND RECOVERING WASTES


--------------------------





13. CONSERVING RESOURCES: There was consensus among the speakers
that the developing world could not afford to widely adopt
western-style toilets and would need to construct less
resource-intensive facilities based on eco-sanitation processes in
which resources in excreta and wastewater are recovered. Both
septic tanks and sewer systems were viewed skeptically as too
expensive and/or unsustainable. (Comment: This view is supported
by current conditions as less than 20% of all Indian households are
connected to sewage systems and in total, 33 billion liters of
sewage are produced in India each day despite current treatment
capacity of 6-7 billion liters per day. End Comment).



14. ECO-SANITATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES: The lack of qualified
local personnel in the sanitation field was repeatedly raised as a
substantial hurdle. Sanitation jobs have traditionally been filled
by Indians of low social status who have little or no formal
education. An Indian organization, Ecosan Services Foundation, with
support from the European Union's Asia Pro Eco Programme, will begin
offering training courses on eco-sanitation in early 2008 to help
address the shortage of skilled workers.



--------------------------


PUBLIC TOILETS


--------------------------





15. MAINTENECE PROBLEMS: Many Indians, especially those living in
urban slums, have neither the money nor the space to build toilets.
In these areas and in public places, public toilets are an important
part of making sanitation facilities available. Many
government-built toilets are neglected and are subsequently
abandoned. The two primary reasons for this are poor management of
the facilities or the non-availability of water - either because of
erratic supply from municipal corporations or exhausted wells. The
Principal Secretary of Urban Development in Andhra Pradesh, S.P.
Singh, stated community involvement is critical to avoid waste and
mismanagement of government operated toilet facilities. A retired
government official from Tamil Nadu told the conference he had to
personally visit the public toilets to discover they were in
disrepair because he was "shielded from information" by his staff.



16. PAY AND USE FACILITIES: Market-driven, pay and use toilet
facilities have sprung up to address the need for quality
sanitation. Customers typically pay one or two rupees which go to
an individual whose job it is to maintain and clean the facilities.

NEW DELHI 00005102 004.2 OF 004


Although there are concerns that some destitute families can't
afford the fee, these facilities provide an important service and
are typically well maintained and widely used, unlike many of the
free public toilets. A motion to include a clause in the Delhi
Declaration on Sanitation stating that public sanitation facilities
should be free met stiff opposition and was not adopted. In a
follow-up meeting, one WHO official informally suggested that
government-issued cards with a small credit for use of toilet
facilities could be given to families below the poverty line to
speed the adoption of sanitary practices by impoverished families
and subsequently improve health among these communities.



17. COMMENT: Poor organization and inadequate screening of
presenters led to an overloaded schedule with no room for discussion
of the issues. This left attendees disappointed with the overall
quality of the conference. However, many attendees emphasized the
positive effect the summit would have by increasing awareness of
sanitation issues among both the public and politicians and would
help make the need for improved sanitation and toilets part of the
national discussion. END COMMENT.

MULFORD