CSE finds loopholes in Swachh Survekshan 2019 survey and its rankings

A new independent analysis of the recently released results of the Swachh Survekshan 2019 has unearthed a number of anomalies in the way the survey was conducted and its results, thus threatening an otherwise excellent initiative. The analysis, done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

“Swachh Survekshan has definitely led to a paradigm shift by increasing awareness and involving citizens in sanitation and waste management issues. However, this year, the programme has been further diluted instead of being strengthened because of political expediency,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE.

Swachh Survekshan was started in 2016 by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to rank and recognise the performance of cities on sanitation and solid waste management (SWM). The idea was that such a ranking would instil a sense of competitiveness among cities and thus improve waste management practices across the country.

Said Bhushan: “Over the last four years, the number of cities covered under the survey has increased manifold – from 73 cities in 2016 to 4,237 in 2019. The methodology has been modified to give more weightage to sustainable waste management practices instead of mere cleanliness. But the 2019 survey has again rewarded cleanliness over sustainable waste management, thereby defeating the purpose behind this exercise.”

In the survey, 75 per cent of the score was dependent on information collected through a third-party certifier, direct observation by a survey agency and citizen feedback. Surveyors did not visit every city that they claimed to have assessed. For instance, site visits were made in only in six-seven of the 26 cities that were rated in Bihar. The remaining cities were asked to share documents and pictures on the online portal. Said Sambyal: “The poor quality of the survey and third-party assessment is clearly reflected in the overall results and rankings.”

While releasing the results of the Survekshan, the MoHUA claimed that the country-wide segregation of waste at source has increased to 60 per cent and waste processing has gone up to 52 per cent (compared to a low 18 per cent at the start of the Swachh Bharat Mission). The CSE analysis indicates that both these claims are over-exaggerated.

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