Sunday, May 30, 2010

Open defecation in India

It is believed that Indians leave an estimated 100,000 tons of human excrement each day in fields of potatoes, carrots and spinach, on banks that line rivers used for drinking and bathing and along roads jammed with scooters, trucks and pedestrians. In the shadow of its new suburbs, torrid growth and 300-million-plus-strong middle class, India is struggling with a sanitation emergency. In India, 75% of the country’s surface water is contaminated by human and agricultural waste and industrial effluent. Everyone in Indian cities is at risk of consuming human feces, if they’re not already, the Ministry of Urban Development has concluded. Illness, lost productivity and other consequences of fouled water and inadequate sewage treatment trimmed 1.4% - 7.2% from the gross domestic product of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in 2005, according to a study by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program. Snarled transportation and unreliable power further damp the nation’s growth. Companies that locate in India pay hardship wages and ensconce employees in self-sufficient compounds. The toll on human health is grim. Every day, 1,000 children younger than 5 years old die in India from diarrhea, hepatitis-causing pathogens and other sanitation-related diseases, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. India has the greatest proportion of people in Asia behind Nepal without access to improved sanitation, according to Unicef. Some 665 million Indians practice open defecation, more than half the global total. In China, the world’s most populous country, 37 million people defecate in the open, according to Unicef. India has the highest childhood malnutrition rates in the world: 44% of children younger than 5 are underweight, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. Half of India’s schools don’t have separate toilets for males and females, forcing young women to use unisex facilities or nothing at all. Twenty-two percent of girls complete 10 or more years of schooling compared with 35% of boys, a national family health survey finished in 2006 found.

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