India has 545 million working cell phones thanks to its booming emerging economy, a number expected to reach 1 billion by 2015, the UN University said on Wednesday.
That number exceeds the number of people who have access to toilet or sanitation facilities - only about 366 million, or 31 percent of the 1-billion strong population.
India's number of cell phone users soared in just 10 years, from 0.35 per 100 persons in 2000 to 45 per 100 persons this year.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.1 billion people of the world population of 6.7 billion people have no access to toilet facilities. The UN Millennium Development Goals call for access to toilets by all people by 2025,
The UN University, a Canada-based think tank, made a study on cell phone users in developing countries to demonstrate that some countries may lag behind in achieving the goal of providing toilets and sanitation for all the world population by 2025.
"It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," said Zafar Adeel, a director at the UN University.
UN University said it would cost an estimated 358 billion dollars to build toilets for half the world population between now and 2015. Each toilet costs 300 dollars.
The World Health Organisation and the UN Children's Fund said programmes to provide toilets have fallen behind schedule worldwide and the 2015 goal may not be reached.