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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A lack of toilets and poor hygiene practices in India cost Asia's third largest economy almost $54 billion every year, the World Bank said on Monday.
Premature deaths, treatment for the sick, wasted time and productivity, as well as lost tourism revenues, are the main reasons for the high economic losses, the bank said in a report.
"For decades, we have been aware of the significant impacts of inadequate sanitation in India," Christopher Juan Costain, the World Bank's head for South Asia's water and sanitation program, told a news conference.
"The report quantifies the economic losses to India, and shows that children and poor households bear the brunt of poor sanitation."
The study "Economic impacts of inadequate sanitation in India" is based on figures taken from 2006, but experts say these remain similar now. It said the largest economic loss was as a result of poor public health.
World Bank experts say there are 450,000 deaths out of 575 million cases of diarrhea in every year in India, where millions of people in both rural and urban areas still have to defecate in the open, do not wash their hands and cope with poor drainage systems.
The premature deaths, treatment of the sick for illnesses like diarrhea, malaria, trachoma and intestinal worms, as well as the time lost due to illness is costing $38.5 billion alone.
A further $10.7 million is lost in "access time," the report said -- time spent looking to access a shared toilet or open defecation site compared to having a toilet in one's own home.
Inadequate toilets in schools and work places also incurred losses as women and girls are often absent or refuse to attend due to the indignity of lack of privacy.
Tourism revenues suffered from the lack of proper sanitation and costing the country about $260 million, Costain said.
"We all hear about people worrying over Delhi Belly, but tourists are reluctant to come here due to health concerns like this and this is losing India money," he said.
Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee and Ron Popeski