Is ‘Swachhta Survekshan Evaluation’ contributing to sustainable sanitation and smarter cities?


India with its growing urbanisation has led to an increasing focus on issues of water, sanitation, waste disposal, sewage, and other components that lead to sustainable living. These elements become important to address as they have also come under what would make our living ‘smarter’ or what would it be like to live in ‘smarter cities’.


Our country for a very long time has neglected the component of sanitation and it’s only in the recent decade that sanitation received importance under the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP)2008 where sanitation received importance in a policy space. Moreover, urban areas have gone unacknowledged when it came to sanitation and rural areas more often than not have become the focus to provide better sanitation facilities.NUSP brought in a refreshing change where the policy was also accountable for the urban areas.


The recent launch of Smart City mission catalysed an environment of urban renewal on the policy front. Since the mission also focussed on better sanitation practices, waste disposal and moreover a sustainable way of living, Swachh Bharat Mission (2014-2019)was executed in conjunction with Smart City Mission so as to achieve the set targets.

Swachh Bharat mission had the component of Swachhta Survekshan Evaluation(SSE) to monitor and regulate the implementation of this policy as to understand how effective it would be. The regulatory body made it easy to comprehend the scale of sanitation and how widely spread it was. The survey that was carried out by SSE is said to be the largest cleanliness survey carried out in the world.


SSE was started in order to generate a competitive spirit between different cities by gauging city performance through service level progress reported by ULB authorities, direct observation through extensive field visits by independent assessors and citizen feedback through phone calls or the Swachhta App. SSE has varied indicators that get revised every year by incorporating citizen’s feedback and also aligning it with the goals to be achieved under Smart City Mission. It started in 2016 by surveying 73 cities, in which Mysore stood at the first place under SBM and further on in 2017 and 2018 it surveyed 473 cities in the former whereas 4023 ULBs in the latter. For the year of 2017 and 2018, Indore bagged the first place.2019 aimed at surveying all the ULBs and it declared Indore as the winner for the third consecutive year. Every year the SSE has evolved its indicators which helps it decide the ranking for national (cities more than 1 lakh population ) and zonal (Cities less than 1 lakh population).


In the year of 2016, SSE focussed on solid waste disposal and toilet construction which then further gave more weight to the citizen feedback in the year of 2017 through the Swachhta app. The year of 2018 stressed on surveying ULBs so as to increase accountability at the grassroots level by also further stressing on solid waste disposal, innovation and behavioural change.2019 saw an increased focus on sustainable sanitation as well as different ODF categories. It also saw the introduction of the new star rating system for the garbage-free city.


This monitoring agency actually highlights the loopholes in implementation at the grassroots level as it becomes necessary to identify why these policies fail. Even though they create a lot of pressure on the ULBs during the assessment period but it also helps in highlighting the inadequacies with respect to the urban local bodies. It has indicated a lack of funds at the grassroots level and how that creates a hindrance in construction of toilets. Hence, it implies the necessity to generate funds via ‘Muni-bonds’.It highlights the lack of data with ULBs and how much they have to rely on non-profit organisations and think tanks to have data to feed into the online SBM portal. It also shows a drawback of the policy itself where  sanitation is not approached as a holistic process but whereas it tends to focus more on toilet construction and not on the entire process of waste treatment and disposal, because when it comes to assessment under SSE the entire process of wastewater treatment and disposal is not taken into consideration.


India has various nonprofit and for-profit organisations working towards a safer and sustainable future. Mahila Housing Sewa Trust is one such non-profit organisation that covers climate resilience, energy, housing and land rights, microfinance, participatory governance and planning, women in construction and revitalization of heritage precincts. It has been working tirelessly towards housing for the informal sector, adequate sanitation facilities, raising awareness among the residents regarding WASH facilities and other important things that come under the umbrella of better living.CAYA constructs are a for-profit organisation that takes into account CSR budgets and uses them to construct toilets and various sanitation facilities under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The overhaul of NUSP has involved a lot of private practitioners in trying to build a sustainable sanitary environment.

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