- Bill Gates lauded PM Modi's Swachh Bharat Mission and its success
- He said that poor sanitation cost India $106 billion a year
- He praised the increased sanitation cover from 42% to 63%
The ambitious but necessary Swachh Bharat Mission triggered a nationwide flurry of activity to improve sanitation and cleanliness when it was launched in October 2014. And now all this work has received a vote of approval from one of the world’s most successful and influential businessmen and philanthropists, Bill Gates. In a new blog post which was published on Tuesday, Mr Gates talked about how he “loved” the mission, its uniqueness and the considerable progress it had managed to make in a short two years while lauding the government’s commitment to the mission.
Tilled ‘India Is Winning Its War On Human Waste’, Mr Gates explains in this GatesNotes.com blog post about why the Swachh Bharat Mission was so important and the success it has achieved by increasing access to sanitation for many Indians.
“In 2014, when Clean India began, just 42 percent of Indians had access to proper sanitation. Today 63 percent do,” Mr Gates wrote, “The hard work is paying off. Today more than 30 percent of Indian villages have been declared free of open defecation, up from 8 percent in 2015.”
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 25, 2017
Since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, 626 cities and 1,93,078 villages have been declared open defecation free as of April 26, 2017, according to government statistics.
What Mr Gates said impressed him the most was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to clean India and end open defecation was “one of the boldest comments on public health” that he had ever heard from an elected official and that he couldn’t think of any other time when a national leader had broached such a sensitive topic so frankly and so publicly.
“Of the 1.7 million people worldwide who die from unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene each year, more than 600,000 are in India. A quarter of young girls there drop out of school because there’s no decent toilet available. When you factor in the deaths, sickness, and lost opportunity, poor sanitation costs India more than $106 billion a year,” he wrote highlighting exactly why this was such an important move for a country like India.
An Ingenious Approach
Mr Gates also lauded the ingenuity India had demonstrated in its approach to realising the dream of a Swachh India. He referred to how people, right from school children banding to stop people from defecating in the open to big Bollywood celebrities, were coming together to spread awareness.
He also drew attention to the fact that a lot of sanitation-related innovation and research was taking place in India.
“Unfortunately, in many places, it’s not feasible to lay down sewer pipes or build treatment facilities. That’s why Indian researchers are testing a variety of new tools, including redesigned toilets that don’t require sewer systems and advanced ways to treat human waste,” he wrote.
Getting the entire process right is critical to the success of the Swachh Bharat Mission, according to Mr Gates. He explained how toilets, waste management, waste treatment and behavioural change were all a part of a chain that would help improve overall sanitation and public health.
“What I love most about Clean India is that it identified a big problem, got everyone working on it, and is using measurement to show where things need to be done differently. As the old saying goes, What gets measured gets done. If you don’t set ambitious targets and chart your progress, you end up settling for business as usual—and in this case, business as usual would mean poor sanitation keeps killing more than half a million Indians every year,” Mr Gates wrote.