Ms. Mel Bromberg- Swacch Bharat
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Ms. Mel Bromberg- Swacch Bharat

Swacch Bharat Remarks for Ec. Dev. Seminar: Indian Consul      2/18/15

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan made big headlines and provided a myriad of broom holding photo opportunities during the past six months for the newly elected Modi government.   Prime Minister Modi, has elevated cleanliness and sanitation throughout India, connecting it to Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi’s vision that “sanitation was more important to India than independence.”  Under the Modi government, economic prosperity and a clean India are paired together, with the potential for this campaign to contribute to GDP growth, reduction in health care costs and become a source of gainful employment.Modi himself has stated that world class levels of hygiene and cleanliness are required forthe thriving of India’s top 50 tourist destinations.  Swachh Bharat focuses on both solid and human waste removal; including the removal of human excrement from public places like schools, roads, railway tracks and platforms, municipal buildings and statues, parks and recreation areas.  It is intrinsically aligned with stopping India’s practices of open defecation, everywhere. Doing Swachh Bharat is equated to sevaor selfless service; not allowing anyone else to clean up after oneself.   Such was not the cultural practice or tradition for years, because night scavengers or those known as Dalits (untouchables), were used to remove the waste of others throughout India as a viable profession.   The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan tied to a modernized India is slated to end in 2019 or on the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth.  Indeed, Mr. Modi wants a Clean and Green India, where overseas private investors and tourists will feel attracted to and comfortable withtheir operating environment.
Mr. Modi, as late as January of 2015, has enlisted the support of the country of Japan and Japanese nationals from within India, especially from the cities of Bangalore, Chennai and Haldia, where the largest populations of Japanese expatriates live.  Using the 5’s principles that explain how to clean up after oneself,India has adopted these Japanese guiding principles to Swachh Bharat.  These include:

(A)Seiri-The Sorting out and segregation of unwanted items,

(B)Seiton- The Systematic arrangement of things.

(C)Seiso- Spic and Span (Sweep, Sanitize, Shine),

(D)Seiketsu- Standardization of things for efficiencies,

(E) Shitsuke- Sustainability including “do without being told” and monitor and audit capacity building.

How, exactly does an initiative for cleaning up one’s county impact economic development and prosperity?

According to the United Nations’ Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) and the UN MDG’s( millennium Development Goals)  for progress in the water and sanitation area , India needs to vastly increase the numbers of toilets and wastewater treatment  infrastructure throughout the country. As of 2012, only 43 percent of individuals had access to an improved form of sanitation infrastructure, while systems to remove that waste and treat it were even less prevalent.   The 636 million Indians without access to improved sanitation infrastructure represents the largest global burden of open defecation in the world; and the fear is that these numbers could burgeon in the coming decades as India’s population grows. According to the World Bank, India’s lack of sanitation infrastructure and poor hygiene costs annually about $54 billion US dollars, and represents nearly 6.5% of GDP. As India leads the world in the practice of open defecation, non- monetary losses from such poor sanitation and hygiene impinge upon economic, environmental and social progress including labor pool losses, absence from education especially by girls, time lost searching for toilets, and the environmental fouling of raw water sources in India many of which already suffer from an abundance of multi- level pollutants. Thus financing and implementation of sanitation infrastructure and waste disposal/ treatment systems are firm country priorities.

 In Wisconsin, Kohler Company which  is one of the world’s five largest manufacturers of higher end plumbing products including  sinks, faucets, toilets, showers and bathtubs and has had a presence in India, for the past five years.  In 2011, Kohler partnered with Caltech  aroundthe Bill Gates’ “2011-2012 Reinvent the Toilet University” initiative. For the competition, Caltech developed a photovoltaic toilet using with an accompanying solar panel electrochemical reactor and hydrogen fuel cell system to incinerate the toilet waste, and without use of any water, sewer or electrical lines.  Kohler’s partnership with Caltech proved beneficial in the offering of plumbing fixtures and exterior design for the prototype and in helping to create a culturally marketable and appropriate toilet for use in India.   Caltech’s and Kohler’s toilet was showcased at the Delhi Toilet Fair in 2012 and went on to win the Gates challenge. Additionally, Kohler provided two years of field testing for the toilet between 2012 -2014 throughout India with sample installations in both Indian rural and urban areas so as to procure feedback on toilet use, design and cultural acceptance. Kohler Company’s sustainability manager said that “the company felt proud to be a part of inspiring solutions and increasing awareness of sanitation issues throughout India. “

 Other business and economic development opportunities exist at many levels with Swachh Bharat, from both technological and behavioral perspectives.  The first apparent opportunity is with the construction of new latrines and facilities for bothhouseholds, schools and commercial establishments. Such infrastructural implementation can provide jobs for masons, construction workers, laborers, painters and plumbing companies.

 Economic behavioral interventions also exist, as with sanitation pioneer and social reformer Dr. BindeshwarPathak’sSulabh organization. Sulabhcapitalized on raising women from their occupations as night scavengers or manual excrement workers to managers and sales people for sanitation storefronts and shared pay toilet/shower facilities within India. Sulabhdemonstrated that by giving women opportunities to upgrade  foundationaleducational skills and put them to use for  sanitation management  purposes, they would be able to generate  greater amounts  of income for themselves and their families, raise themselves out of their caste class, and thus be able to afford to send their children to school. Thus while doing social reform, Sulabh also help to partiallyeradicate a profession no longer needed in a technological age while also creating new market opportunities for sanitation products and services. 

Secondly, as Prime Minister Modi wants to also connect “Clean to Green”, with Swachh Bharat, another way to do so and still create economic prosperity is to turn human/ animal and food wastes into energy. The safe reuse of urine and composted treated feces can be recycled to fertilizers and biogas for use in both cooking and agricultural production. Through the use of anaerobic biodigestors, or other biogas creatingtechnologies, the use of waste to produce cooking fuels and fertilizers for growing food  in a country where nearly 70% of the population has no access to clean cooking fuel, and where fertilizer is exorbitantly expensive,can become critical to energy provision and food production .

Where water sources are scarce in India, energy sparing technologies which use no water for waste removal and treatment are being explored and created through such research and educational institutions as the India Institute of Technology, and Tata Power.

 As President Obama recently pointed out in his visit to India on Republic Day this year, “to grow the economies of both the world’s largest democracy and the oldest democracy, we need to reduce inequalities.”  One of the new US trade and investment initiatives between India and the USA is to capitalize upon investment back to India from over the 3 million Indians who now live and work in the USA. Sponsored by the Calvert Foundation and USAID, the Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative will allow Indian Americans to generate new streams of financing for markets in India that invest in non-traditional-- and too often --overlooked sectors. This includes the water and sanitation sector, where infrastructural shoring up and new market creation are intrinsic to internal economic prosperity.  Aligning US based citizen partners and companies to this new investment initiative around the sanitation and water sector will not only create job growth between the two countries, and open new markets for capital investment and service, but also help our countries attain“SanjhaPrayaas, SabkaVikaas- Shared Effort and Progress for All.

But it should be remembered that sanitation does not stand alone within a country. It affects agriculture, roads and sewer infrastructure, energy sourcing, raw water sources, and humansocial dignity and prosperity.  These are sectors and values with which Midwest participants have had much experience. Starting with Swacch Bharat, India has found a key to unlocking economic prosperity and providing multilateral and bilateral relationship building opportunities thereby enhancing the learning and sharing of sectoral expertise between India and US Midwest partners.Jai Hind.

 

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