Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plan to eradicate open defecation by 2019 has earned a billionaire fan. Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has lauded the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for improving sanitation in the country.
In a blog posted on Tuesday, Mr. Gates wrote elaborately Mr. Modi’s pet project has given a big push to combat one of the biggest cause of death — poor hygiene. Of the 1.7 million people worldwide who die from unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene each year, more than 600,000 are in India, wrote Mr. Gates.
“What I love most about Clean India is that it identified a big problem, got everyone working on it, and is using measurement to show where things need to be done differently,” Mr. Gates wrote.
He also posted a 360° VR video that he shot during his recent visit to India. Narrated by Mr. Gates, the video opens with shots of people using railway tracks to defecate. The video shows how an ‘omni processor’ — a pilot project funded by Gates Foundation — converts human waste to fertilizer using pathogens.
The Foundation is also piloting an “inexpensive reinvented toilet,” which uses chemicals to do away with the smell and disease-causing properties and can be installed in the premises itself.
Mr. Gates’ blog also highlights the second big challenge in implementing the total sanitation project, besides creating the infrastructure. “...giving people access to toilets isn’t enough. You also have to persuade them to use the toilets. That’s the second key to Clean India, and in some ways it is even harder than the first.” The Government's move to geo-tag toilets, locate-the-nearest-toilet apps, swachh ambassadors and even new Indian currency notes mentioning Clean India drive finds place in Mr. Gates' post.
Gates Foundation has installed omni processors in Senegal and is working on converting human waste to electricity, ash and even drinking water.