The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) under the Union Ministry of Jal (Water) Shakti released the operational guidelines for the second phase of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM II) on May 2020. The guidelines hold significance as the country deals with the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The dumping of untreated faecal sludge has destroyed surface and ground water. Safe toilets, with well-managed black and grey water, are the need of the hour, particularly in rural areas where on-site sanitation is the only solution.
The guidelines talk about building more toilets or community toilet complexes to not leave anybody out. They also mention availability of adequate water or storage facilities of water for these toilets. They, however, do not mention clearly how water availability to toilets will be connected. Bottlenecks over the availability of water in toilets and solutions to make the mission a success are not explained either. There is only a mention of recharging groundwater by greywater. Gram Panchayats should converge village action plans (VAP) for SBM and Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), according to the guidelines.
“Greywater management in villages should be planned in consonance with piped water supply already provided to villages/planned to be provided under JJM or any other state schemes,” the guidelines said. The VAP for SBM and JJM should be part of their overall gram panchayat development plans, the guidelines said.
The DDWS, in September 2019, released a 10-year strategy (2019-29) on SBM II. The strategy focussed on proper implementation of solid and liquid waste management (SLWM) — plastic waste, organic waste, grey water, and faecal sludge — in rural areas.
The new guidelines were finalised in this direction. They point out that first SBM I made the country’s districts open-defecation free (ODF) in October 2019. The Union government approved SBM II and a total outlay of Rs 1,40,881 crore was allocated in February 2020 for the sustainability of the ODF state and SLWM. An interesting feature of the guidelines is how the financing of SBM II will be done through convergence of different Central and state schemes.
The program will be implemented in close coordination and convergence with:
- JJM for greywater management
- Finance Commission funds for co-financing of assets
- National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for dovetailing funds and functionaries
- Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship for skill development of field functionaries
- National Rural Livelihood Mission for involving self-help groups as vehicles for behaviour change communication
- New National Biogas Organic Manure Programme scheme of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
- Sustainable alternative towards affordable transportation scheme of Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan projects
States can identify any other schemes at their level and converge them to ensure attainment of SBM II objectives, according to the guidelines. The convergence of schemes did not work in the building of the toilets. This created a bottleneck in the progress of the toilet construction. Concern, thus, remains on working of the convergence of schemes in the implementation of SLWM projects.