Poor sanitation cost India 5.2% of its GDP

Lack of access to sanitation wiped off US $106.7 billion from India's GDP in 2015. It is almost half of the total global losses

By Sushmita Sengupta
Last Updated: Monday 12 September 2016

A 2011 report published by Water Aid says that sanitation access lowered the odds of children suffering from diarrhoea by 7-17 per cent and reduced the mortality rate of children under the age of five by 5-20 per cent
Credit: Miran Rijavec/Flickr

A report—True cost of sanitation—was published jointly by the LIXIL Group Corporation, Water Aid and Oxford Economics recently. Oxford Economics mainly works on economic forecasting and modelling.

It says that in 2015 lack of access to sanitation cost the global economy around US $ 222.9 billion. This is almost 1.2 times the cost incurred in 2010. There has been a rise is US $ 40 billion in just five years.

The 2015 figure constitutes an average 0.9 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of countries affected by poor sanitation.

The report looks at economic development to estimate the global cost incurred due to poor sanitation. It talks about the high economic burden in low-and-middle-income economies.

Heavy burden

The economic burden of poor sanitation is the heaviest in Asia-Pacific, which is almost 77 per cent of the total amount. Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa each account for approximately 10 per cent of the global cost.

On a national level, in terms of total cost, India suffers the most, with US $ 106.7 billion wiped off the GDP in 2015. It is almost half of the total global losses and 5.2 per cent of the nation’s GDP.

According to the 2015 report of the Joint Monitoring Programme of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization, around 44 per cent of Indians defecate in the open.

Poor sanitation has a range of negative impacts on the society and the economy. It causes debilitating and deadly diseases through the contamination of drinking water sources and food with pathogen-laden human wastes.

It also gives rise to associated losses in productivity due to sickness and toilet access and increased healthcare costs from caring for the sick.

A 2011 report published by Water Aid says that sanitation access lowered the odds of children suffering from diarrhoea by 7-17 per cent and reduced the mortality rate of children under the age of five by 5-20 per cent. Water Aid is an international organisation dealing with water, health and sanitation.

Credit: True cost of sanitation, 2016

Finding solutions

The report talks about how to move towards sustainable solutions. Three solutions suggested are as follows:

Innovative solutions: sanitation systems in the developed world require vast amount of land, energy, and water. They are expensive to build, maintain and operate. Innovation is a key to solving the sanitation crisis. It is not limited to designing new sanitation hardware. The report says that there should be planning in place so that sanitation products reach consumers. LIXIL is developing sanitation solutions for regions where water intensive systems are not appropriate. It delivers human-centric innovation that enhances people’s living spaces

Political prioritisation: the social and economic impacts of improving sanitation are irrefutable. Politicians at the international, national and local levels must put sanitation at the top of their agenda and reflect this in national planning and budgeting. This point has proved true for India in many cases. Such prioritisation has helped states like Sikkim and Kerala to move towards cleanliness

Collaboration and coordination: The sanitation crisis can be solved if there is collaboration among different stakeholders. The government, communities, NGOs, researchers, academia, corporate and the private sector should come together to solve the complex sanitation issues. This approach enables each stakeholder to efficiently leverage their core skills, thereby ensuring that effective programmes can be taken to scale up with the necessary speed. Sanitation success in India and Bangladesh came only when communities were involved in the programme

India is talking about attaining a clean state by October 2019. Sanitation crisis in the country needs to be solved at a war footing to reduce the economic burden caused due to health problems connected to poor sanitation.

This needs not only construction of toilets, but usage. Managing liquid and solid wastes is also important that needs special care. Innovative technologies with low-water usage can be of great help in this regard.

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  • It breaks my heart that after these years the world at large is still lacking access to safe water and proper sanitation. With that millions of lives are claimed due to contraction of water-borne diseases. However, with up and coming studies on such a matter, hopefully, Government will stop providing us with flattering statistics regarding the realization of the right to water, with Stats while in reality, this is not the case. I'm currently a research student and thus with my study, I hope to gather enough data to send out an awareness of such key issues.

    Posted by: Audrey Vanya | 3 years ago | Reply