News

Indian Group Promotes Development by Bringing Water, Toilets to 700 Million People

Hundreds of millions of homes across India lack running water and, therefore, toilets - which leads to disease and has social implications. Sulabh International, a private Indian group, is working to change the situation by building public toilets across the country.

At the Old Delhi Railway Station in the heart of India's capital, tens of thousands of people arrive everyday from all over the country, often to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families.

But first things first. Many are also often seeking a toilet.

Across the street from the train station is a public facility run by Sulabh International, a private Indian organization that promotes better sanitation for millions of urban and rural poor.

The two-story structure holds a total of 15 shower stalls and 36 toilets, for men and women. All are squat toilets, which require less water to operate.

Kashi Nath Jhe supervises the toilet facility.

He says the toilet facility has really cleaned up this part of the city, because before it opened, people used to defecate along the train tracks or on the road - or wherever they wanted. The area was filthy, he says, but the new toilets have really helped.

In a country with about one billion people, the sanitation implications are enormous. Sulabh International estimates that 120 million homes across the country still have no toilets, meaning 700 million people have to do without.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, says lack of toilets is a major cause of disease, which is compounded by the fact that many poor Indians do not wear shoes.

"So most of the diseases are caused by transmitting diseases from their feet and coming to their stomach - and they develop hookworm, roundworm, etc," he said. "And children in India, in rural areas, specifically, you will see that their hands and elbows are all thin, but their stomachs [are] big, only because the blood is sucked by those bacteria."

Sulabh International has built some 6,000 public toilet and bathing facilities in slums, public parks and at religious sites across the country. It also promotes the construction of basic toilets in private homes, which can be installed for as little as $10 each.

A lack of sanitation facilities is not just India's problem. The United Nations estimates 2.6 billion people globally have no access to water and, therefore, toilets.

One United Nation's Millennium Development project aims to halve that number by 2015. For India, that may be difficult to achieve.

"It's a huge challenge and the money required can run into billions of dollars," said Ghanasham Abhyankar, a sanitation engineer at the World Bank office in New Delhi. "That is trying to reach - not piped water to everybody - but the basic service level, as we call it, which is 40 liters per capita per day. And sanitation means that everybody at least has a private latrine."

New Delhi's diplomatic district, Chanakyapuri, is also home to a Sulabh International toilet facility, located across the street from an embassy.

The organization accepts donations of land from private owners or municipal governments to build the toilet facilities. The fee it charges to use the toilets - the equivalent of about four U.S. cents - covers maintenance costs.

Still, Sulabh International's Abha Bahadur says, the organization wants to get India's wealthy more involved in this project.

"What you are seeing here is a very posh area, a very nice area - though it has a big park at the back, so we have a lot of people coming here," he said. "The rich do have a problem if they see people defecating outside in the park, which is next to their house. Then they wake up and say, we must have a public toilet here, we don't like to see the sight. We are trying to encourage the public sector and the corporate sector to come forward."

The lack of toilets across India has social implications as well. It is affecting the education of girls. With no toilets in many schools, girls often quit rather than risk being seen relieving themselves outdoors. Others, also through modesty, choose not to relieve themselves, which causes infections and illness. And that is just one example of how lack of toilets hinders social and economic growth.

Experts say if India wants to become a fully developed nation, modern sanitation facilities are not just a convenience; they are a necessity.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs