There’s a lot of things we take for granted in developed countries: safe drinking water, constant access to electricity and, of course, a sewer system that neatly flushes away our human waste.
In India, a huge chunk of the population doesn’t have access to such clean toilets, instead using unsanitary ones or just doing their business out in the open. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aiming to change that with the Clean India campaign, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Bill Gates highlighted the program in his most recent Gates Notes blog post, complete with 360-degree video.
He pointed out some of the things that have made the project successful — namely the leadership to get it started and the thorough documentation that’s keeping it going.
“What I love most about Clean India is that it identified a big problem, got everyone working on it, and is using measurement to show where things need to be done differently,” Gates wrote in the post.
“As the old saying goes, ‘What gets measured gets done.’ If you don’t set ambitious targets and chart your progress, you end up settling for business as usual — and in this case, business as usual would mean poor sanitation keeps killing more than half a million Indians every year.”
The Clean India project is a good example of how massive public health initiatives can succeed. Before the project began, just 42 percent of Indians had access to clean toilets; now that number is 63 percent.
Gates also writes that the project has a detailed plan to get that number to 100 percent by 2019, which would drastically improve public health across the country and perhaps even turn those unsafe toilets into places to make clean fertilizer. Watch the video above for details on that project.
Gates writes that making sanitary toilets widely available would drastically improve public health, make access to education easier for young girls and could even save the country almost $106 billion a year. Now that’s a bold goal.
The billionaire Microsoft co-founder is no stranger to tackling the taboo subject of sanitation. Last fall, he wrote about giving “poop perfume” the sniff test in an effort to make public toilets a more desirable option in the developing world. And in 2015, he sipped on a glass of drinking water made from human waste to prove a point about finding solutions.