In 2006, every tenth death in India was caused by diseases linked to inadequate sanitation. Of these deaths, numbering 7,68,000 approximately, around 3,95,000 were children who died of diarrhoea. The figures, thrown up by World Bank, stand in direct contrast with the 9% economic growth the country celebrates at all given opportunities.
The World Bank (WB) report in fact says that not only are precious lives being lost, but the unsanitary living conditions are causing huge losses to the country's economy too. This loss figure for 2006 has been put at Rs 2.4 trillion ($53.8 billion), equivalent to 6.4% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), in the report, 'Economic Impacts of Inadequate Sanitation', released on Monday.
All the findings are based on 2006 figures, but the report does foresee a similar magnitude of losses in later years. “It shows children and poor households bear the brunt of poor sanitation,” Christopher Juan Costain, WB Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) Regional Team Leader for South Asia, told HT.
The study devised the figures after evaluating costs associated with death and disease, accessing and treating water, and losses in education, productivity, time, and tourism. While premature mortality and other health-related impacts of inadequate sanitation were the costliest at Rs 1.75 trillion (71.6% of the total impact), productive time lost to access sanitation facilities or sites for defecation caused a Rs 487-billion loss. "Drinking water-related impacts" drained out Rs 191 billion.
Experts do not doubt the staggering figures. "Inadequacy of sanitation is a substantial burden on economic progress. There is a need for a massive awareness campaign, like the Pulse Polio drive, besides promotion of low-cost options for sanitation," said Professor Srinivas Chary, director, Centre for Energy, Environment, Urban Governance & Infrastructure, at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad.
A rating of 423 cities done by the union urban development ministry recently found not a single city in the 'green category', which stands for clean and healthy.