The 'Swachh Bharat' initiative of the Narendra Modi government has led to a reduction in the contamination of groundwater, a UNICEF study has observed. Hailing the mission, Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Wednesday said cleanliness affects all aspects of the environment as well as health and well-being of the communities in Open Defecation Free (ODF) regions. He also said a WHO study conducted in 2018 had estimated that the Swachh Bharat mission will save over three lakh lives by the time India is Open Defecation Free.
Shekhawat, while releasing two independent third-party studies conducted on the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen), said the initiative will continue to positively impact people's lives for a long time to come. These studies, commissioned by UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were launched on World Environment Day and aimed at assessing the environmental impact and communication footprint of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) respectively.
Under the "Environmental impact of the Swachh Bharat Mission on Water, Soil, and Food" by UNICEF, groundwater samples were collected and studied from ODF and non-ODF villages of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal. The study found that in terms of faecal contamination, non-ODF villages were, on average 11.25 times more likely to have their groundwater sources contaminated (12.7 times more from contaminants traceable to humans alone), 1.13 times more likely to have their soil contaminated, 1.48 times more likely to have food contaminated and 2.68 times more likely to have household drinking water contaminated.
The findings indicated that these substantial reductions may potentially be attributed to the improvement in sanitation and hygiene practices, as well as support systems such as regular monitoring and behaviour change messaging, which have all been critical aspects of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen).
(With inputs from agencies.)