In a country like India, access to sanitation facilities and safe drinking water is still a distant dream. While India is progressing in other aspects, lack of sanitation and drinking water facilities have acted as impediments to the development process. These basic rights are not only important to health and sustainable development, but also very essential for removal of poverty and overall growth of the country. According to latest estimates by the UN, around 600 million people or 48% of the total population in India defecates in the open, which is more than in any other country in the world. Under these circumstances, can the Swachh Bharat Mission to make India a Clean India by 2019 be a success?
However, an interesting fact to note is that while there are millions of people in the world who defecate in the open, we have the examples of many South Asian countries where people consider sanitation as “dignity” and “cleanliness”. It’s high time now that our country, our people, the Government in continuation with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should try to follow the examples of some South Asian countries in making our nation a clean nation. We give below the names of a few Asian countries which have been considered as some of the cleanest countries of the world and whose methods and policies can be followed in India:
Singapore is the smallest country in Southeast Asia but one of the best places to live in Asia. Singapore has emphasised the need to have good water, proper water conservation, pure air, clean energy, controlled traffic and efficient energy supply.
Some key issues that India can follow from Singapore are as follow:
- In 1967, the Government had launched ‘Singapore Clean Campaign’ and this was soon followed by the Public Health Law. This was one of the first legal measures undertaken by the nation to regulate and change public health behaviours.
- Even today it has adhered to the objectives of the campaign.
- The Government has always emphasised on making Singapore a ‘Garden City’, with key focus on perfect urban planning and pollution control. Today the city is clean and green.
- The clean water bodies of the country provide clean water for all.
- Since long, the Government has relied on 3 R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle.
- There are progressive environmental policies in the country. All steps are taken to conserve the natural resources of the country.
- There are various initiatives undertaken on a regular basis such as ‘Clean & Green Singapore Schools Carnival’, ‘Bring Your Own Bag Day’ at supermarkets, ‘ABC Waters Programme’ etc. which have played important roles in trying to make Singapore ‘a city within a garden’.
- Also, the Government had come up with the scheme of providing Government-subsidised low-income housing. This was an indirect way to provide access to household sanitation. The availability of affordable public housing led to a large number of people moving from unfit slum housing or kampong, where open defecation was common, to houses with access to personal safe sanitation.
On Teacher’s Day, when the Prime Minister gave his speech to thousands of students, he referred to his visit to Japan to emphasise how spirit of cleanliness and equalism were being instilled in the children in that country. In Japan, cleanliness is part and parcel of life. Here, cleanliness is not a personal issue but a public one and hence each and every citizen contributes towards cleanliness.
Some key issues that India can follow from Japan are as follow:
- In Japan, it is said that cleanliness has spiritual origins, even part of the Shinto belief system, which has many purification rituals stressing cleanliness.
- Japan’s obsession with hygiene is not new. It started with a systematic national campaign, which dates back to the Meiji era (1868-1912), which linked hygiene to nationalism. Hygiene and cleanliness was carried out as a moral practice as well as in the name of the nation.
- In Japan, students and teachers together clean and mop up toilets. This was a part of character building from a young age.
- Japanese are born hygiene conscious. It is a common sight to see Japanese women and men, regularly wearing surgical masks and white gloves, specially the women.
- Japan’s toilets are actual demonstration of modern technology. All Japanese homes have separate rooms each for washing face, brushing teeth, the bath and the toilet.
- It’s been legally notified in Japan to keep the pet dog on a leash and dog owners to pick up the dog’s shit on the road in a bag and dispose it at home. And if the dog urinates, the owner has to wash it away with water.
- Well-known brands of Japan like Toyota introduced three popular car models with anti-bacterial steering wheels and other parts. Matsushita introduced the world’s first anti-bacterial clothes dryer. Hitachi has turned automated teller machine (ATM) that sterilizes and irons yen notes before dispensing them.
In South Korea, sanitation policy is within a single ministry, but any plans and programmes are run through multiple agencies and ministries. It may not be in top ranks as the cleanest country but it is definitely in a better position than India.
Some key issues that India can follow from South Korea are as follow:
- In South Korea, a parasite eradication programme was launched by the Government, where providing sanitation infrastructure in low-income housing projects was an essential part of the campaign.
- Also, the Five-Year Development Plans that were framed in the country emphasised on providing sanitation to all to improve the lives of citizens.
- The country also started the New Village Movement that incorporated provision of sanitation in rural areas.
- The Central Government and local authorities are constantly working on expanding wide area water supply systems, tap water conserving facilities, and sewerage and drainage systems.
- The Ministry of Environment (MOE) has been providing monetary support for the construction of sewage treatment and water supply facilities in rural areas.
- The MOE also executed the 2nd Nationwide Polices for Solid Waste Management (2002-2011) so as to promote waste reduction and recycling.
- The Republic of Korea is also promoting recycling and safe waste treatment by implementing the Volume Based Collection Fee System and constructing sanitary landfill facilities in both metropolitan and provincial areas.
These are just a few examples. Many South Asian countries are far better than India in terms of cleanliness and sanitation. In each of these countries, improvements in sanitation and hygiene are a result of an efficient Government support, from the head of the Government to all the citizens who work collaboratively to improve the national standards of public health, cleanliness and hygiene practices. In each of these countries, improvements in sanitation was not a standalone goal but was a result of wider public health, housing and hygiene programmes. There are many things that India can learn from these countries…
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