The study indicated that substantially reduced levels of contamination could be attributed to improved sanitation and hygiene practices.
A recent study conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that the Modi-led central government’s flagship scheme -- Swachh Bharat Mission -- has helped reduce groundwater contamination in the country.
The scheme was launched on October 2, 2014, which marks the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. One of the motives of the mission was to eradicate open defecation by building 90 million toilets in the rural reaches of India at an estimated expenditure of Rs 1.96 lakh crore, reported News 18.
The study was based on data collected from three states -- Odisha, West Bengal, and Bihar. Groundwater samples collected from these three states suggested that villages that still reported open defecation were 11.25 times more susceptible to contaminating their groundwater resources than open-defecation-free villages. Faecal waste mixing with groundwater is more frequent in such villages as compared to open-defecation-free villages.
The study further found that water contamination in non-ODF villages was mostly due to human excreta, with 12.7 times more contaminants traceable to humans. It added that such villages are also 1.13 times more prone to having their soil contaminated.
In non-ODF rural households, there was 2.68 times more chance of the drinking water being contaminated also. There was a 1.48 times higher chance of food contamination as well.
The study, therefore, indicated that substantially reduced levels of contamination were attributable to improved sanitation and hygiene practices. Apart from these, regular monitoring and behavioural change through awareness -- which were all aspects of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) – could have contributed to the positive outcome.
Commenting on the report result, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Minister for Jal Shakti, said on Wednesday that cleanliness is crucial as it affects all aspects our health and well-being as well as the environment.
He added that another study conducted by WHO in 2018 had also gauged that the clean Indian mission will be instrumental in saving more than three lakh lives by the time the country is entirely open defecation free.
While releasing two independent third-party studies revolving around the mission, he also said that the initiative will keep bearing positive results for a long time to come.The study was commissioned by UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was launched on World Environment Day with a view to assessing the environmental impact of the Swachh Bharat Mission in the rural areas of the country.
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