"It's more than water and sanitation, it's human dignity," the New York Daily News quoted Joe Madiath, head of the Mantra project (Movement and Action network for Transformation of Rural Lives) run by the non-governmental group Gram Vikas, as saying.
Speaking at the awards ceremony in Geneva, Madiath said he could never imagine that a project involving toilets "could lead to such a big prize."
According to the report, Gram Vikas, based in Orissa, is helping to provide "blanket coverage" of toilets and piped running water to rural communities where 85 percent of the population has no access to a toilet and 99 percent do not have the facility of running water.
Lack of basic sanitation is a widespread problem in Indian homes, with census data showing more households in the country of 1.2 billion people have a telephone than a toilet, the report said.
So far, the NGO says it has reached 988 villages, including those in hilly areas lacking electricity, claiming its project has led to a more than 80-percent drop in waterborne disease, it added.