March 22, 2010, marked World Water Day, an annual celebration in operation since its inception in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly. Each year, World Water Day focuses on a specific theme, such as ‘Water and Disasters’ (2004), ‘Water and Culture’ (2006), and ‘Transboundary’ Waters (2009).
This year’s focus (Clean Water for a Healthy World) is on how a lack of access to clean water is dangerous because “people ultimately resort to sources of water with a high health risk,” leading to outbreaks of water-borne diseases. It’s a global crisis in sanitation that results in the death of over 4,000 children per day.
WaterAid, an international non-governmental organization dedicated “to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities,” stepped up to the plate this year by sponsoring toilet queues all across the world on World Water Day.
One such toilet queue occurred in Bhophar, the capital city of Madha Pradesh. It was sponsored by WaterAid’s Indian branch and attracted over 1400 people, including college students, media representatives, and the indigent. Queues were also held in Chhatarpur, Datia, Dhar, Guna, Sehore, and Sheopur (all cities within Madhya Pradesh state), although they failed to garner quite as much attention.
Mathew Luckose, the regional manager of WaterAid India, explained the purpose of the queues, saying, “The aim of world’s longest toilet queue is to get the world to unite around a single mass campaign action.”
Indira Khurana, a spokeswoman for WaterAid India, echoed his concerns, noting that in India, “638 million people or sixty percent of the population defecate in the open.” And this isn’t because they’re lazy; it’s because there are no toilets available for them to use. Keep in mind also that 638 million people is approximately double the population count of the United States. Khurana further added, “In urban India, 18 percent people practice open defecation and in rural areas 69 percent.”
The campaign ran from March 20-22 across 10 Indian States and Delhi. According to WaterAid India, however, 54 toilets would have to be built per minute to make India “open-defecation free” by March 31, 2012.
They also mentioned that the ratio of toilets to people is as high as 1:500 in some regions of India. Can you imagine sharing a toilet with 500 people?
For more information, feel free to view the video below, although it is entirely in Hindi.