The nation has already acknowledged the fact that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has steered the country to near 100% sanitation coverage from the mere 38.7% before October 2014. Modi government in its five years period had built over 9 crore household toilets whereas in all of the period between 1947 and 2014 the number of household toilets built was 6.37 crore. In villages, this effort was seen not just an infrastructure push but the toilets have been perceived as izzat ghar, safeguarding the dignity of women. The far-reaching effects of Swachh Bharat continue to unfold as the recent UNICEF study has demonstrated that the programme has resulted in huge environmental benefit as well, thereby making a positive impact on health.
Scope of the UNICEF study
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has done this study “to ascertain contamination levels, related to human and animal faecal contamination in Environmental Medium viz. Water, Soil and Food in 4 numbers of villages each in one ODF and one non-ODF district in each of the three states viz. Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal.”
The study found that in all aspects- water, soil, and food- the Open Defecation Free villages (ODF) scored over the non-ODF villages. Thus, it has become clear that where all the Swachh Bharat has completed its task of making the place ODF, it has evidently contributed to the cause of environment.
The Key Findings
The study found out that in terms of faecal contamination from human origin, non-ODF villages were, on average:
- 12.7 times more likely to have their groundwater sources contaminated (12.7 times more from contaminants traceable to humans alone)
- 1.1 times more likely to have their soil contaminated
- 2.16 times more likely to have food contaminated and 2.48 times more likely to have household drinking water contaminated
In the background of these key findings of UNICEF study, it is important to mention here that Swachh Bharat has made 5, 63,420 village Open Defecation Free as on June 13, 2019.
The findings mention the role played by IEC (Information, Education, Communication) dissemination and regular messaging in preventing the water contamination.
Below are the snapshots taken from the pages of UNICEF study that divulge more details.
The ODF status supporting the cause of the environment also means that the water, soil, and food free from contamination certainly contribute to the health of the people. In fact, UNICEF undertook this study since its aim is to “ensure the consumption of safe drinking water, practice safe sanitation and hygiene, resulting in lower exposure to a contaminated environment, resulting in lower morbidity and mortality, especially amongst children.” Thus, it is sufficing to say that the izzat ghar and other efforts of Swachh Bharat are contributing meaningfully to build a New India that is healthier.