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India's sanitation summit overshadows problems that persist

Updated : 2018-10-02 10:58:28

The United Nations is celebrating an Indian government program officials say can be a model for other low-income and developing countries at a summit this week in New Delhi. But in Taimoor Nagar, a slum just outside one of the city's poshest neighborhoods, hundreds of people rely on a single public toilet, underscoring the challenges that remain for India's urban poor.

The numbers in the government's ambitious Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, program are staggering. India's population of 1.3 billion accounted for 60 percent of the world's open defecation in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, but that dropped to 20 percent by 2018.

The summit — with a keynote address by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday — overshadows the struggles with open defecation that remain in the heart of India's capital.

The $20 billion program concludes in 2019, timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth. The freedom fighter wrote in 1925 that many diseases in India were caused by a "bad habit of disposing of excreta anywhere and everywhere."

A temporary toilet made by farmers for their use is seen near the River Yamuna in New Delhi, India. The United Nations is celebrating the sanitation gains made in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 at a summit this week in New Delhi, but struggles with open defecation remain in the heart in India's capital. November 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, File)
A temporary toilet made by farmers for their use is seen near the River Yamuna in New Delhi, India. The United Nations is celebrating the sanitation gains made in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 at a summit this week in New Delhi, but struggles with open defecation remain in the heart in India's capital. November 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, File)
An Indian man walks carrying water to defecate in the open in Greater Noida, outskirts of New Delhi, India. Monday, October 1, 2018. (AP Photo/R S Iyer)
An Indian man walks carrying water to defecate in the open in Greater Noida, outskirts of New Delhi, India. Monday, October 1, 2018. (AP Photo/R S Iyer)
An Indian man sleeps on the roof of his house at a shanty area in New Delhi, India. April 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
An Indian man sleeps on the roof of his house at a shanty area in New Delhi, India. April 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Indians look at the low cost models of toilets that are on permanent display on the premises of the Environmental Sanitation Institute (ESI) in Ahmedabad, India. The numbers in the government's ambitious Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, program are staggering. India's population of 1.3 billion constituted 60 percent of the world's open defecation in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, dropping to 20 percent by 2018. November 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, File)
Indians look at the low cost models of toilets that are on permanent display on the premises of the Environmental Sanitation Institute (ESI) in Ahmedabad, India. The numbers in the government's ambitious Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, program are staggering. India's population of 1.3 billion constituted 60 percent of the world's open defecation in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, dropping to 20 percent by 2018. November 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki, File)
An Indian man brushes his teeth using a neem, as others attend to their morning chores next to a sewage canal before they leave for work early morning in New Delhi, India. December 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)
An Indian man brushes his teeth using a neem, as others attend to their morning chores next to a sewage canal before they leave for work early morning in New Delhi, India. December 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)
An Indian municipal worker cleans a public toilet as a man walks out in New Delhi, India. April 6, 2017. (AP Photo /Tsering Topgyal, File)
An Indian municipal worker cleans a public toilet as a man walks out in New Delhi, India. April 6, 2017. (AP Photo /Tsering Topgyal, File)
An Indian man defecates on the banks of the River Yamuna in New Delhi, India. June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, File)
An Indian man defecates on the banks of the River Yamuna in New Delhi, India. June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal, File)
An Indian girl holds a can filled with water and walks past railway tracks to defecate in the open in Mumbai, India. June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade, File)
An Indian girl holds a can filled with water and walks past railway tracks to defecate in the open in Mumbai, India. June 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade, File)
A low-caste sweeper cleans excreta flowing out of a public toilet at Ajmer, India. August 26, 2014. (AP Photo/ Deepak Sharma, File)
A low-caste sweeper cleans excreta flowing out of a public toilet at Ajmer, India. August 26, 2014. (AP Photo/ Deepak Sharma, File)
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