Features Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute| May 9, 2014| 6.29 pm IST Almost half the Indian population still practises open defecation. This is what a WHO- UNICEF report titled ‘Progress on Drinking Water and sanitation 2014 update’ says. The report says a total of 597 million Indians defecate in the open when they have to go. The report which looked at developing regions and least developing regions says that India continues to be the country with the highest number of people (597 million) practicing open defecation. Indonesia comes second to India with 54 million practicing open defecation, closely followed by Pakistan at 41 million. In fact, 82% of the one billion people practicing open defecation in the world live in just 10 countries. The report says globally 2.5 billion people do not have access to an improved sanitation facility of which 792 million is from India. India increased access to improve sanitization for 291 million people, between 1990-2012, but we still have a long way to go. Significantly the report adds that India does not feature among those countries which have made great efforts in reducing open defecation- something that should be of serious concern for all Indians, our government and NGO’s working in the sector. Open defecation is 12% among urban population, and 65% among rural population. The report says, "Eliminating open defecation, a practice strongly associated with poverty and exclusion, is critical to accelerating progress towards the MDG sanitation target. Over the past 22 years, the number of people practising open defecation fell by a remarkable 21%, from 1.3 billion in 1990 to one billion in 2012. Those one billion people with no sanitation facility whatsoever continue to defecate in gutters, behind bushes or in open water bodies, with no dignity or privacy. Nine out of 10 people who practise open defecation live in rural areas, but the number in urban areas is gradually increasing." When it comes to access to drinking water, the report says that India has increased access to drinking water for 534 million people between 1990-2012.

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