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Inadequate Sanitation Costs India Close To $54B, World Bank Report Finds

“Inadequate sanitation cost India about 6.4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the equivalent of $53.8 billion (Rs.2.4 trillion today) in 2006, according to a new report (.pdf) from the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), a global partnership administered by the World Bank,” Livemint reports (Ghost, 12/21).

“The study analyzed the evidence on the adverse economic impacts of inadequate sanitation, which include costs associated with death and disease, accessing and treating water, and losses in education, productivity, time, and tourism. The findings are based on 2006 figures, although a similar magnitude of losses is likely in later years,” according to a Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) press release.

“The report indicates that premature mortality and other health-related impacts of inadequate sanitation, were the most costly at US$38.5 billion, 71.6 percent of total impacts, followed by productive time lost to access sanitation facilities or sites for defecation at US$10.7 billion, 20 percent, and drinking water-related impacts at US$4.2 billion, 7.8 percent,” the release states (12/20).

“The report estimates that in rural areas, where 50% of households are said to have access to improved sanitation, there are almost 575 million people defecating in the open. Similarly, in urban areas where 60-70 % of the households are said to have access to sanitation, 54 million people defecate in the open and over 60% of the waste water is discharged untreated,” IST/TNN/Economic Times reports (12/21).

“In the demographic break-up, children suffer the most. At least three-fourths of the premature mortality related economic losses are due to deaths and diseases in those younger than five,” Livemint adds. “Diarrhoea among these children accounts for at least 47% or $18 billion of total health associated economic impact,” according to the news service (12/21).

“For decades, we have been aware of the significant impacts of inadequate sanitation in India,” Christopher Juan Costain, the World Bank’s head for South Asia’s water and sanitation program, told a news conference, Reuters reports. “The report quantifies the economic losses to India and shows that children and poor households bear the brunt of poor sanitation,” Costain said (Bhalla, 12/20).

The report notes “that by investing in sanitation, India could gain $32.6 billion, which would be a potential gain of $29 per capita. The study estimates the market for sanitation goods and services is at $152 billion over 2007-2020,” Livemint adds. The article compares the cost associated with inadequate sanitation in India to other regions in East Asia and quotes Vijay Mittal, India’s director at the department of drinking water and sanitation (12/21).

“Inadequacy of sanitation is a substantial burden on economic progress,” said Srinivas Chary, director of the Centre for Energy, Environment, Urban Governance & Infrastructure, at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, Hindustan Times reports. Chary called for increased campaigns to educate the public about sanitation (Das Gupta, 12/20).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.