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India’s Pm Launches Massive Campaign to Clean up Cities, Villages

Update Date: Oct 02, 2014 09:33 AM EDT

On Thursday, politicians, bureaucrats, policemen and citizen groups from India have taken to the streets with their brooms as a part of the country's massive campaign to clean up cities and villages.

"We have to give Mahatma Gandhi something on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said according to the Washington Post. "Just like the whole nation united to fight for freedom back then, we have to work together to clean India now."

The campaign, titled "Clean India" and launched on the same day as Gandi's birthday, was created to change and improve the nation's sanitation problems. The $10 billion project aims to build more toilets, put a stop to open defecation, improve trash disposal and increase awareness about the dangerous linked between poor sanitation and public health.

In order to get everyone involved, Modi has asked officials to go to work on a public holiday to clean their offices as well as the surrounding streets. The officials also had to take a pledge to spend 100 hours each year cleaning. Since Modi's party came to power back in May, he has stressed the importance of cleaning up India by urging all citizens to take part in their community's sanitation process.

"I will not litter, I will not allow others to litter, is what we must resolve if we are true children of this motherland," Modi said. "When we travel abroad, we are so impressed by how clean other countries are. The secret of their cleanliness is the discipline of the citizens in those countries."

Even though the campaign has brought more attention to the importance of sanitation, some critics have stated that in order for India to clean up and stay clean, people's behaviors must be changed.

"It is refreshing that a topic that has never been considered important in India is suddenly getting the spotlight," said Shammy Jacob, founder of Saaf India Foundation, a not-for-profit that tracks Indians' attitudes toward littering. "But I hope this doesn't end with just cleaning the streets without working on behavioral change, without asking fundamental questions like: Where is this garbage going? Are we segregating waste? Is it getting recycled and disposed in a sustainable manner?"

Based on the numbers provided by a 2012 report, researchers from Columbia University stated that India generates over 68 million tons of solid waste per year. By 2041, that number could jump up to 160 million tons.

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