Swachh Bharat needs long-term commitment
IN INDIA, THE NATIONWIDE PUSH TO IMPLEMENT THE SWACHH BHARAT MISSION WITH KEY STAKEHOLDERS, SUCH AS INDUSTRY AND SCHOOLS, HAS SHOWN PROMISING RESULTS
Four years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission to achieve the vision of a “Clean India” by 2019. Fittingly, October 2, 2019, is also the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who championed sanitation as a national priority. Over the past four years, India has made great progress, building more than 86 million toilets for households, and declaring nearly half a million (470,000) villages free of open defecation.
It is not just a plan to clean the environment, but ‘transform the way we think, live and work’
India is a country on a vastly different scale from Singapore. The River Ganga is almost a thousand times longer than the Singapore River. Yet there are some parallels in Singapore’s and India’s sanitation journeys.
Both countries’ experiences demonstrate the importance of vision and leadership. They personally led public campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize the masses. Both picked up brooms and joined the people to clean the streets. Prime Minister Modi has said that Mr. Lee was a “personal inspiration”, and that he had drawn from his idea that “transformation of a nation begins with a change in the way we are”. Indeed, the Swachh Bharat Mission is not just a programme to clean India’s environment, but a deeper reform to “transform the way we think, live and work”.
In India, the nationwide push to implement the Swachh Bharat Mission with key stakeholders, such as industry and schools, has shown promising results. The ‘2018 UNICEF Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools: Global Baseline Report’ highlighted that almost all schools in India have sanitation facilities built, compared to just 50% of schools in 2006.
Both Singapore and India value international cooperation. The same solution may not work in a different country, but we can all benefit by learning from others and sharing experiences. Congratulating India on successfully hosting the inaugural Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention, which has brought together leaders, practitioners, and experts from around the world to share their sanitation stories.