Sustainable Development Goal 6, Clean water and sanitation is at the very core of sustainable development, critical to the survival of people and the planet. The issues of health and wellness are closely related to adequate water supply and functional sanitation systems. This Goal addresses not only the issues related to drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene but also the quality and sustainability of water resources worldwide.

India having one-sixth of the world’s population, place equal access to essential health, clean water, and sanitation services in top priority. In October 2014 Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) was launched by the Prime Minister of India under the Flagship scheme of the Government of India.

Clean drinking water

76% Indian habitations have full coverage, i.e. these habitations get more than 40 liters per capita per day. However, some habitations in India have water quality issues and the two most critical water quality issues are arsenic and fluoride contaminations. Piped water supply coverage in India is over 50% and in public spots. The objective is to have piped water supply in 90% of habitations by 2022 including 80% household coverage. Today household connections are only 15% so it is an ambitious target to attain. Major issues which confront here are groundwater and source sustainability.

Steps which can be taken to conserve water and to be able to meet future demands:

  • Lifeline plus drinking water as a concept needs to be incorporated to create sustainable drinking water. Smart cities need to have this principle embedded in their very conceptualization.
  • Water Education, i.e. an integrated water management approach in education.
  • Creating data and interlinking dataset from different government departments is essential if the SDG goals need to be attained.
  • Managing water demand i.e. rationalization and prioritization of net water demanded.
  • Promoting water audit and incentivize water conservation.

Hygiene and Sanitation:  Sanitation no longer lacks political determination. Sanitation has been an integral part of the Prime Minister’s election campaign and addresses to the nation. While working towards the sanitation-related targets, it is important to focus on not only numbers but usage. Sanitation is important, why?

  • An account estimates that sanitation saves about 200000 lives a year of children under the age of 5 who die of illnesses related to diarrhea.
  • A study done by World Bank shows that GDP impact of lack of sanitation was 7%. Thus there is a huge economic cost to the lack of sanitation.
  • It is essential for women security and dignity.
  • Lack of sanitation impacts physical and cognitive stunting of children.


India’s Performance in Sanitation The sanitation programme (Swachh Bharat Abhiyan) aims to address sanitation issues beyond toilet and include solid and liquid waste management as well.

Sanitation Coverage: Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh have been declared open defecation free. 17 districts in India have been declared ODF, Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab is the most recent one. 72000 villages are open defecation free.

Haryana, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Gujarat and West Bengal are with relatively high coverage (66 % – 99%) even Kerala has around 95% coverage, and most of these states are on the verge of becoming Open Defecation Free. In fact, Nadia, a district in West Bengal was the first district in the country to be declared ODF. All northeast states except Assam also come in this category.

In Punjab, the coverage is 77%. They also have a peculiar feature of bath cum latrines. In fact, nearly 30% of the latrines are like that. In Fatehgarh Sahib, it is more than 40% because all the ladies prefer to have the bathroom also. An added advantage is that 91% population covered by the piped water supply, so they are able to keep it clean as well. Two states, Bihar and Odisha have coverage of less than 33% in the country and marking progress.

Central Indian states are more concentrated as More than 50% of the toilets are to be constructed in 5 states, i.e. UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan. The major policy decision has been taken by the Government recently:

  • Mandatory purchase of power by the DISCOM produced out of the waste.
  • Ministry of fertilizer has taken a decision to give about 1500 rupees per tonne of the city compost as market development assistance. This is to encourage the compost and reduce the usage of chemical fertilizer.
  • Standards on C&D waste by Bureau of Indian Standard to stop the depletion or the plundering of natural resources and to also reduce the problem of C&D waste.
  • Production of the low-cost sanitary napkins and counseling of the adolescent girls, expelling hygiene management.

The SDGs are providing an amazing opportunity for India to accelerate its determination towards being water secure, clean and a healthy nation. India is known for its innovation and programmes that address specific challenges. SDGs offers India a platform to emerge as a robust player on the international stage, to share its knowledge and experience as a learning partner.

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