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Putting the spotlight on sanitation

Urban India generates close to 3 million trucks of untreated garbage every day. If these were laid end-to-end, one could reach half way to the moon.  The need for attention to sanitation and cleanliness is both urgent and long-term.

Ankur Bisen’s new book Wasted: The Messy Story of Sanitation in India takes an honest look into India’s perpetual struggle with these issues and suggests measures to overcome them. Historically, we have developed into a society with a skewed mindset towards sanitation with our caste system and non-accountability towards sanitation.

A blurb by Harsh Mander, author and activist, reads, “Wasted locates India’s missed opportunities in sanitation in its complex civilisational legacy; its comfort with caste, informality and child labour; and in its appalling local governance systems. Necessary reading for every policy maker, town planner and engaged urban citizen.”

Through stories, anecdotes and analysis of events, this book seeks solutions to the current entangled problems of urban planning, governance and legislation, and institutional and human capacity building. Wasted traces interesting relationships between urban planning and dirty cities in India; legislative and governance lacunae and the rising height of open landfills; the informality of waste management methods, and the degrading health of Indian rivers, soil and air.

Arguing that all current solutions of India are extrapolated from these flawed beliefs and structures and are therefore woefully inadequate, Bisen draws a benchmark from clean countries of today. Underlining the need for inclusive human clusters, specificity in legislation, correction of existing social contracts and governance frameworks, creating a formal resource recovery industry in India, and the pursuit of diplomacy around this industry, this book shows how these solutions could lead us towards a brighter future and better social development.