India continues to be a study in contrasts. While the country is poised to become the next economic superpower, 70 per cent of its young people still have no access to education. And now a report from the World Bank has shown that there are more cell phones in the country than basic sanitary facilities. And this is costing India's economic growth dearly.
The study 'Economic Impact of Inadequate Sanitation in India', conducted by the World Bank's South Asia Water and Sanitation Unit states categorically that “Inadequate Sanitation Costs India Rs. 2.4 Trillion (US$53.8 Billion)”.
This translates to loosing 6.4% of its GDP in terms of lost productivity thanks to illness and death, especially of children, and the time and cost involved in treating various diseases that result from unsanitary conditions. Among the Asian countries ranked like Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia, India fared the worst. The annual per person losses in India it is $48 on a per capita basis, putting the country's losses at the highest.
Cleaner ways to prosperity
The United Nations-World Health Organization Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation defines 'improved 'sanitation as the means that hygienically separate human excreta from human contact and hence reduces health risks to humans.
Inadequate sanitation, says the report, is thus the lack of improved facilities (toilets, conveyance, and treatment systems), and hygienic practices (for example, hand washing, proper water handling, personal hygiene, and other factors) that exposes people to human excreta and thus to disease-causing fecal-oral pathogens through different transmission pathways.
Children and poor households are hit the hardest. This study estimates that a package of comprehensive sanitation and hygiene interventions can result in averting 45 percent of adverse health impacts, and avoid all the adverse impacts of inadequate sanitation related to water, welfare, and tourism losses.
A new monitoring framework has been recommended to measure improvements in the overall health, water-related, environmental, and other welfare indicators that result from inadequate sanitation besides the treatment and disposal of wastes.Comprehensive interventions (better toilet facilities and hygiene promotion), say the report, besides, increasing public and household investments in sanitation can work to improve the situation.