Indian health crusader wins Stockholm water prize

STOCKHOLM, (Reuters) – A man who has fought for  almost four decades to improve sanitation in India’s slums and  villages was awarded the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize on  Wednesday.

The Stockholm International Water Institute noted in  particular Bindeshwar Pathak’s campaig against manual  “scavenging” of human waste — a practice where people, often  children, clear out excrement from open pits using buckets. Many  die from disease contracted in this work.

Battling conditions such as those seen in the rags-to-riches  film Slumdog Millionaire, shot in the teeming slums of Mumbai,  Pathak won the award for his work to change unsanitary practices  in India.

The Institute said Pathak’s work, which has improved the  health of millions of people, had served as a model for NGO  agencies and public health initiatives around the world.

“Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak is a shining example of how hard work  and plain speaking about sanitation can measurably improve  people’s dignity, privacy, status and, most importantly,  health,” said David Trouba, communications officer at the Water  Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council in Switzerland.

Some of his innovations included a twin pit, pour-flush  toilet, better water conservation systems and technologies that  convert waste into biogas for heating, cooking and electricity.

Born in 1943, Pathak lives in New Delhi and has authored  several books including The Road to Freedom.

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