Why it is so hard to fix India’s sanitation?
INDIA vies with China to be the world’s fastest-growing large economy, but its record on basic sanitation is dreadful. Around 450m people relieve themselves in playgrounds, behind trees, by roadsides, and on railway tracks and river banks. In cities 157m urban dwellers, more than the population of Russia, lack decent toilet facilities. Much of the solid waste is emptied into rivers, lakes and ponds untreated. The World Bank links one in ten deaths in India to poor sanitation. From contaminated groundwater children pick up chronic infections that impair their bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients. Almost 44m children under five, says the bank, have stunted growth, and every year over 300,000 die from diarrheal diseases. What can India do to change this grim reality?
In 2014 the government pledged to end open defecation by 2019. That year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, who considered sanitation to be sacred and “more important than political freedom”. Authorities have set aside $29bn for the nationwide program, which claims to have constructed 49m household toilets to date, with another 61m still to go.
Photo courtesy of Ajay Tallam.
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