Here’s an article from the “Times of India” about a recent WHO-UNICEF report on sanitation around the world:
India tops the world in open defecation
Payal Gwalani, TNN Feb 24, 2012, 02.05AM IST
NAGPUR: India has the dubious distinction of being a topper in terms of open defecation, a UNICEF survey has revealed as well. This is a major public health concern, stressed officials from the agency. This habit of the countrymen makes the people prone to water-borne diseases, increasing the burden on the economy, they said.
India had an astounding number of 58% people defecating in the open, said the survey.
China and Indonesia came in a distant second with just 5% of their population not having toilets. Pakistan and Ethiopia were third with 4.5% such people. UNICEF officials were in the city to attend an international workshop on water contamination organized by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri), in association with Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation ( MDWS), Government of India, UNICEF, WHO and International Water Association (IWA).
Every year, 1.8 million people across the world die of microbial contamination (bacteria, viruses, amoeba) of water, said Pawan Labhasetwar, scientist and head of water technology and management division from Neeri. Secretary of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation Vilasini Ramachandran, who was also present, admitted that this was a major concern and that the government was working towards finding a solution to it.
"The faeces left in the open, along with microbes they carry, get washed away by rains contaminating the various sources of water. This water when consumed by people can result into various illnesses," said Aidan Cronin, water advisor of UNICEF. Diarrhoea, a major illness spread through contaminated water, kills around 800 children below the age of 5 every day in the country, he revealed.
"Since most of the defecating places double up as playgrounds for rural children, chances of direct exposure also are high. Vectors like flies can bring the microbes into drinking water or food," said Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) specialist of UNICEF Gregor Meerganz von Medeazza. The practice also creates a security risk for rural women besides it being a matter of dignity, he added.
UNICEF has been trying to get the number of people defecating in the open down. Small changes, however, do no good in this case, insist the officials. "We have observed that even when up to 20% people change the habit and switch over to toilets, incidence of diarrhoea remains the same. There must be a total change in the habit," said von Medeazza.
The officials said there was stiff opposition in most villages when they tried advocating the use of toilets. They believed a change in cultural behaviour of the people was the only way out.
An article about India’s response to this rather unenviable milestone:
India on road to be open defecation free
July 27, 2012
By Rashme Sehgal DC New Delhi
A major step to make India open defecation free was taken on Thursday with the ministry of rural development headed by minister Jairam Ramesh joining hands with the ministry of defence under defence minister A.K. Antony to set up bio-digester toilets in 2.4 lakh gram panchayats in India.
The technology for these eco-friendly toilets has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and was originally used for human waste disposal for armed forces personnel deployed at high altitudes. But the technology has now been extended to suit all climates and biodigesters have been installed in various locations in J&K, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
Another 12,000 biodigesters have been ordered for all houses in the 10 islands under the Lakshadweep administration. The Indian railways is also going to switchover to these toilets. Already, nine trains have been fitted with 436 such toilets and another 50,000 coaches will be retrofitted with this technology at a cost of `500 crores. apart from it being used in all the new trains.
Mr Ramesh pointed out that the cost of this massive operation will be shared between his ministry and the ministry of railways. “Eleven million passengers travel by train every day and this is an open toilet for them,” he said.
Sixty per cent of the world’s open defecation takes place in India and the census 2011 has highlighted that 50 per cent of households do not have latrines from which 67 per cent are located in rural areas.
Speaking at the MoU ceremony, Mr Ramesh said, “We need to achieve civic hygiene by converting panchayats into nirmal panchayats. We continue to have 13 lakh insanitary latrines where manual scavenging is still being used.’ The positive news is that Sikkim is the first open defection free state in the country. Kerala is expected to follow suit by November this year with Himachal Pradesh and Haryana becoming defection free by early 2012.
Although the rural development ministry’s budget was half that of the `14.7lakh crore allocated to the defence ministry, Mr Ramesh believes “a synergy must develop between defence investment and civilian spinoffs”.