Four years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat mission to the vision of a clean India & # 39; reach. Fitting on 2 October 2019, it is also the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who defended hygiene as a national priority. Over the past four years, India has made great progress by building more than 86 million homes for households and releasing almost half a million (4,70,000) villages from open feces.
Singapore has also traveled this trip. Since independence we have worked hard to create a clean and green environment for our people. In the past, many houses were not sewage. "Nightsoil" was collected in buckets and transported by malodorous trucks to sewerage factories. Often the human waste was dumped in nearby rivers and rivers, causing the waters to be polluted and poisoned. Unhygienic living conditions led to many public health problems, including frequent outbreaks of water-borne diseases.
Our founders decided to act resolutely. They launched a national campaign to "keep Singapore clean". We cleaned every house, cleaned our rivers and made Singapore a clean and green city. In particular, we cleaned the Singapore River. During the process, we had to clean up thousands of squatters, backyard industries, pig farms and countless other sources of pollution in the river basin. Nowadays, a clean Singapore river flows through the city to the Marina Reservoir, which feeds our national water supply.
India is a country on a very different scale than Singapore. The river Ganges is almost a thousand times longer than the Singapore River. Yet there are some parallels in the sanitary journeys in Singapore and India.
First, the experiences of both countries show the importance of vision and leadership. The late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Modi have both made it a priority to keep the country clean and green. They have personally led public campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize the masses. Both picked up brooms and joined the people to clean the streets. Prime Minister Modi said that Lee was a "personal inspiration" and that he had drawn the idea of Mr. Lee that "transformation of a nation begins with a change in the way we are". Indeed, the Swachh Bharat mission is not just a program to clean up the Indian environment, but a deeper reform to transform the way we think, live and work.
Secondly, success requires national involvement in the long term. Singapore has implemented a Sewerage Masterplan to separate our sewer and sewerage networks. The goal was to prevent rainwater from being contaminated so that it could be collected and used. At the same time, Singapore uses water from wastewater treatment plants, which is purified by reverse osmosis, to produce NEWater, an ultra-pure, high-quality water suitable for drinking. We have addressed one problem: what to do with used water and turning it into a solution for another problem: water scarcity.
In India, national efforts to implement the Swachh Bharat mission with key stakeholders, such as industry and schools, have produced promising results.
The "UNICEF drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in schools in 2018: general reference report" emphasized that almost all schools in India have built sanitation facilities, compared with only 50 percent of schools in 2006.
Third, Singapore and India value international cooperation. The same solution may not work in another country, but we can all benefit from learning from others and sharing experiences.
I congratulate India on the successful opening of the inaugural Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention, which has brought leaders, practitioners and experts from around the world together to share their sanitary stories. Singapore also has international forums such as the biennial World Cities Summit and the Singapore International Water Week. In 2013, the UN adopted the resolution & # 39; Sanitation for All & # 39; of Singapore adopted to commemorate November 19 as World Toilet Day.
Singapore likes to share experiences with India, while it continues to develop more livable and sustainable smart cities across the country. Singapore has worked with the Indian organization for town and country planning to train a hundred officials in city planning and water and waste management.
Singapore also looks forward to working with states such as Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to provide urban solutions for the development of their cities.
I wish Prime Minister Modi and the people of India the very best in the Swachh Bharat mission to "clean up India". I also look forward to further cooperation between our two countries to achieve the UN's objective of sustainable development of clean water and sanitation for our peoples for generations.
The writer is Prime Minister of Singapore