With that act, she added to the estimated 100,000 tons of human excrementthat Indiansleave 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. Devilooks back on her routine with pain and embarrassment.“As a woman, I would have to check where the males were going to the toilet and then goin a different direction,” says Devi, 37, standing outside her one-room mud-brick home.“We used to avoid the daytimes, but if we were really pressured, we would have to goany time of the day, even if it was raining. During the harvest season, people would havesticks in the fields. If somebody had to go, people would beat them up or chase them.”In the shadow of its new suburbs, torridgrowthand 300- million-plus-strong middle
class,Indiais struggling with a sanitation emergency. From the stream in Devi’s villageto the nation’s holiest river, the Ganges, 75 percent of the country’ssurface water iscontaminated by human and agricultural waste and industrial effluent. Everyone in Indiancities is at risk of consuming human feces, if they’re not already, theMinistry of Urban
Developmentconcluded in September.
Economic DrainIllness, lost productivity and other consequences of fouled water and inadequate sewagetreatment trimmed 1.4-7.2 percent from the gross domestic product of Cambodia,Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam in 2005, according to a study last year by theWorld Bank’sWater and Sanitation Program.
Sanitation and hygiene-related issues may have a similar if not greater impact on India’s$1.2 trillion economy, saysGuy Hutton, a senior water and sanitation economist with the
program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Snarledtransportationand unreliable power further
damp the nation’s growth. Companies that locate in India pay hardship wages andensconce employees in self- sufficient compounds.The toll on human health is grim. Every day, 1,000 children younger than 5 years old diein India from diarrhea, hepatitis- causing pathogens and other sanitation-related diseases,according to theUnited Nations Children’s Fund.‘Sanitation Crisis’For girls, the crisis is especially acute: Many drop out of school once they reach puberty because of inadequate lavatories, depriving the country of a generation of possibleleaders.“India cannot reach its full economic potential unless they do something about thissanitation crisis,” saysClarissa Brocklehurst, Unicef’s New York-based chief of water,sanitation and hygiene, who worked in New Delhi from 1999 to 2001.