More cell phones in India than toilets: UN

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Washington, April 15 (ANI): People in India, the world's second most populous country, have more access to a mobile telephone than to a toilet, according to a new UN report.

"It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet," Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University's Canada-based think-tank for water, the Institute for Water, Environment and Health, said.

The report is produced by experts who prescribe ways to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on sanitation by 2015.

They also urge the world community to set a new target beyond the MDG (which calls for a 50 percent improvement in access to adequate sanitation by 2015) to the achievement of 100 percent coverage by 2025.

Recent UN research in India shows roughly 366 million people (31 percent of the population) had access to improved sanitation in 2008.

Other data, meanwhile, shows 545 million cell phones are now connected to service in India's emerging economy. The number of cell phones per 100 people has exploded from 0.35 in year 2000-01 to about 45 today.

Worldwide some 1.1 billion people defecate in the open. And data show progress in creating access to toilets and sanitation lags far behind world MDG targets, even as mobile phone connections continue to a predicted 1 billion in India by 2015, according to the study.

The report says it costs about 300 dollars to build a toilet, and worldwide an estimated 358 dollars billion is needed between now and 2015 to reach the MDG for sanitation.

If current global trends continue, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, in a report titled 'Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water' in March, predicted a 1 billion person shortfall from the sanitation goal in 2015 - in all, 2.7 billion will lack access. (ANI)

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