October 02, 2013

Gandhi said “Sanitation is more important than independence”. To demonstrate his commitment he made cleanliness and sanitation an integral part of the Gandhian way of living and believed in total sanitation for all.

October 2, 2013, is the 144th birthday of Bapu and what better way for the Bill & Melinda Gates to celebrate this profound and inspirational leader, than to announce our new partnership with The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India in joint funding the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) to launch the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge – India.

If you are not immersed in the issues facing global sanitation, you should be. At the moment, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to safe sanitation. Safe sanitation, that could save the lives of 1.5 million kids under the age of 5 globally every year and prevent so much sickness and suffering for 40% of the world’s population.

At 1.27 billion people, India is the second most populous country in the world. Although, around 275 million people gained access to improved sanitation between 1990 and 2011, 615 million still defecated in the open in 2011[1].

And, millions of tons of fecal sludge collected from pit latrines and septic tanks are discharged untreated into the environment, creating a horrendous health hazard. A recent UNICEF report on sanitation in India showed that poor sanitation is responsible for the stunting of 62 million children under the age of 5; these kids will never reach their full physical or mental potential.