Swachh Bharat Mission

[op-ed snap] Swachh Bharat: Urban areas require a different approach to end open defecation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Swachh Bharat

Mains level : Analysis of Swachh Bharat Urban in the background of Rural


The Swachh Bharat Mission is being executed by two different ministries — the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for rural areas and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for urban areas.

Swachh Bharat – challenges

    • In rural areas, the major challenge was to change the mindset of the populace.
    • As the majority of the households did not have toilets in their homes, the main component of Swachh Bharat Mission was to construct household latrines and focus on IEC activities.
    • The need for a dedicated sewerage network is less in rural areas as the toilets are connected with in-house soak pits.
    • Domestic waste in rural areas is also managed in a much better manner as it is segregated at the household level and a majority of it is used in the fields.
    • Improving the cleanliness level in a rural area is much less complex than in an urban setup.

Swachh Bharat – Urban

    • An urban area faces two major challenges — disposal of solid waste and sewage/liquid waste.
    • Disposal of solid waste has three key components: Waste collection, transfer of the waste, and proper disposal at the landfill site.
    • The task of waste collection and its transfer to the landfill site requires both manpower as well as an efficient transportation system. 
    • The segregation of waste can either be at the source or at the landfill. Segregation at source is more economical.
    • At the landfill, it is done by either using high-end segregation plants or manual conveyors.

Challenges of SB(U): Disposal

    • Disposal of solid waste is primarily the responsibility of municipalities.
    • These municipalities are not equipped with the manpower, financial resources, and technology for the task. 
    • Most of them are dependent upon the state governments for resources. 
    • These municipalities do not have sufficient human resources in terms of engineers or sanitation staff to manage the waste. 
    • Landfill site management is very poor due to a lack of technical know-how.

Managing sewage

    • Merely constructing toilets cannot solve the problem as these areas require proper sewerage network. 
    • The soak pit system that works in rural areas cannot work in urban areas due to a space crunch and increasing population density. 
    • The job of laying the sewerage network is again distributed between the state’s public health engineering department and the municipalities.

Limitations of SB(U)

    • Its main focus is on the construction of individual household toilets, community toilets, public urinals and IEC activities. 
    • The funds earmarked for solid waste management are minimal. 
    • There is a limited provision of funds for laying the sewerage networks. 
    • The strategy used for Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) will not yield results in the urban mission.

Way ahead

    • There is a need for revamping the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) wherein the focus is on solid waste and sewer management. 
    • Recurring funds must be provided for the collection of waste and its disposal. 
    • A window may be given to municipalities for upgrading their capabilities to augment their revenue collection. 
    • Separate funds must be given for the development of landfill sites.
    • Best possible practices for waste collection across key cities must be studied and emulated.


    • Adopting a piecemeal approach for constructing toilets and litter bins will not solve the systemic issue of waste disposal in cities.
    • Unless we are able to lift the waste from the streets systematically, cleanliness will not have any meaning.
    • The success of the Swachh Bharat Mission depends also on changing the way waste is disposed of by the municipalities and the state governments.
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