The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been envisioned as "a bold, universal agreement to end poverty in all its dimensions and craft an equal, just and secure world – for people, planet, and prosperity by 2030". Realising the importance of water and sanitation towards the achievement of this vision has led to a dedicated SDG on water and sanitation – the SDG 6, which aims "to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all."
India has taken massive strides towards achieving universal safe sanitation. The number of people practicing open defecation in rural India has gone down from 550 million in 2014 to less than 150 million today, through an intensive behaviour change campaign, the Swachh Bharat Mission, which has become a people's movement. India is on track to achieve open defecation free status by 2019, significantly contributing to the global achievement of SDG 6.
Water and sanitation for all: The Indian Context
Mahatma Gandhi had once said, "One must care about the world one will not see". This reflects India's deep commitment to sustainable development. The Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi's statement at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015 clearly set the context for SDGs in India. He said:
"Much of India's development agenda is mirrored in the Sustainable Development Goals. Our national plans are ambitious and purposeful; sustainable development of one-sixth of humanity will be of great consequence to the world and our beautiful planet."
The thoughts of the Mahatma, reinforced by the Prime Minister of India, provide the foundation for implementation of SDGs in India. While all the SDG goals have been prioritised by the Government of India, there is an unprecedented focus on SDG 6.
Swachh Bharat Mission
The Government of India launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) on 2nd October 2014, with an aim to build a Clean and Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2nd October 2019, as a befitting tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary. At the time of the launch, the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, gave the clarion call for a mass movement that seeks to engage everyone in the task of cleaning their own homes, workplaces, villages, cities, and surroundings, as a jan andolan (a people's movement). Swachh Bharat has since captured the imagination of the Indian people.
Since the inception of the program, the rural sanitation coverage of India has increased significantly, from 39% in October 2014 to over 90% as of September 2018. Over 78 million household toilets have been constructed under the Mission. As a result, 25 States/Union Territories, over 530 districts, and 5,18,419 villages have declared themselves as free from open defecation.
The MGISC was a 4-day event that brought together Sanitation Ministers and sector specialists from around the world. It was organised by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India. The Convention shared sanitation success stories and lessons from the participating countries and culminated on October 2nd, 2018, with the launch of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth year celebrations in India, as the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Programme) entered its final year of implementation.
MGISC included a field visit, plenary and technical sessions and an exhibition of sanitation innovations.