A UNICEF study launched on the World Environment Day 2019, has revealed that ‘Swachh Bharat’ initiative under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has considerably reduced groundwater contamination in Open Defecation Free (ODF) regions.
The study was based on ground reports from three states, namely, Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal. It affirmed that groundwater samples of villages that are not free of open defecation were 11.25 times more likely to have their groundwater sources contaminated with fecal matters compared to the ODF villages.
Moreover, soil contamination was also found to be 1.13 times more likely in non-ODF villages against ODF villages. Similarly, non-ODF villages are 1.48 times more likely to have their food contaminated and 2.68 times more likely to have household drinking water contaminated compared to ODF villages.
Another study launched on the same day by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirmed that ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ scheme had mobilized around Rs 23,000 crore for creating awareness on sanitation in rural areas.
These studies, commissioned by UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were aimed at assessing the environmental impact and communication footprints of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) respectively.
The representatives of both these organizations had individually lauded Modi government for its willingness to pursue the scheme.
Similarly, the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2018-19, conducted between November 2018 and February 2019, covering 92,040 households in 6,136 villages across states and Union Territories of India, had recently declared that over 93% of rural households in India now have access to toilets out of, which about 96.5% of households have used the facility.
PM Modi’s pet scheme since its launch in October 2014 has won accolades for openly talking about a subject that was a taboo until recently.
In October 2018, referring to Prime Minister’s ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan’ the UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore had said, “The Prime Minister invested political time and effort and what it meant was people began picking up that story. They want to do it for Mahatma Gandhi, for their country and they felt pride in it.”
Moreover, this flagship initiative was also lauded by the World Bank last year, which had termed it as the ‘biggest sanitation movement’ in the world.
The World Health Organisation in its report released in August 2018 had praised the mission listing out the progress and impact of the Swachh Bharat Grameen (rural) mission started by PM Modi.
WHO had reportedly analyzed rural health and sanitation data and the health impacts of the Swachh Bharat Grameen mission and concluded this mission had been able to prevent over 3 lakh deaths due to sanitation-related infectious diseases during 2014 and 2018.
Last year, in its assessment of the Indian economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had acknowledged the contribution of Swachh Bharat mission in improving access to sanitation for raising gender equality in India.
Moreover, the Mission had earlier won accolades from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Gates had congratulated Indian government for “shining a light on sanitation,” asserting India must now build on the success of Swachh Bharat Mission by using innovations and technology to improve sewage processing capabilities and generate zero waste.
World Environment Day is observed each year on June 5.