New Delhi: “Swachh Bharat means cleaning everything. For India, it is not difficult to run a campaign like this because it is already a part of our culture, but somewhere down the line we deviated and got into this problem”, says Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce and Industry while addressing the second India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) – FICCI Sanitation Conclave and Sanitation Awards at FICCI today. Further explaining the relationship between sanitation and economy, the minister said, “Swachh Bharat can become a big change agent for India. It has huge potential to push economic growth. Once this campaign is successful, there will be economic growth because the moment sanitation issue is addressed, the public health will get addressed which will give a boost to economic growth.”
Asserting a similar view, Naina Lal Kidwai, Chair India Sanitation Coalition, said,Issue of sanitation is central to our country’s health, people’s health.”
Highlighting this direct relationship between economy and sanitation, Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation shared a 2017 UNICEF study which states that a household in an open defecation free (ODF) village can save upto Rs. 50,000 in a year. Reason being, safe sanitation will reduce the number of health diseases which in turn will save the money spent on health and related things.
Mr Iyer also quoted a GATES Foundation study which highlights decline in stunting, diarrhea and other health problems in an ODF district as compared to a non ODF district.
Improving sanitation has direct linkages to several other socio-economic aspects. Rashesh Shah, President, FICCI explained how the issue of poverty and sanitation go hand in hand. He said,
First step to solving the poverty issues is tackling the sanitation and water problem.
The other economic benefit of improved sanitation highlighted by Mr Prabhu is in the production of food. Mr Prabhu said, our soil security is one of the most critical components of our food security and to improve soil fertility we can make use of naturally available manure, manual waste.
As more and more people come into the open defecation free fold, some experts felt there will be need to sustain the gains and that may open up scope for innovative solutions. Dr R A Mashelkar, Chair, ISC-FICCI Sanitation Awards Jury said,
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has turned into a movement in which every Indian needs to participate. If you have passion and innovation, the combination can lead to solution. Transform India to a real swachh bharat.
Talking about the innovation and how it is helping the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Mr Prabhu mentioned about the bio-vacuum toilets in railways and green corridors.
A couple of years ago no one thought that we could have toilets that don’t require water in a train, but now it has turned into a reality. Such innovations help the country achieve its goal, Mr Prabhu said.
As of today, India’s rural sanitation coverage has reached to 83 per cent as compared to 39 per cent in 2014. As far as urban sanitation is concerned, 52 lakh individual household toilets and 3.2 lakh community and public toilets have already been built as opposed to the requirement that is 67 lakh individual household toilets and 5 lakh community and public toilets.