South Asian Conference on Sanitation opens in Colombo
By Ifham Nizam
Minister of Water Supply and Drainage Dinesh Gunawardena said the country had a total coverage, in safe water and sanitation, of 85.5 percent in 2011. “We have now set our own target to reach 100 percent coverage in safe sanitation and water by 2020. We are confident that it will be achieved, because our reconstruction programmes are centered to provide better sanitation and quality water supply for all people”, said Gunawardena, addressing the Fourth South Asia Conference on Sanitation yesterday in Colombo.He said He said sanitation was a basic need and fundamental necessity for human beings to live with dignity. “Unfortunately, governments across the world face mounting challenges to ensure this basic facility for its people,” he said.
Gunawardena said that according to United Nations 2.6 billion in the world do not have improved sanitation facilities. “The most disconcerting fact is that 72 per cent of this lives in Asia. This gives us food for thought,” he added.
The fourth South Asian Conference on Sanitation will be held in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo from Monday to Thursday to tackle the sanitation crisis in the region. Around one billion people or 64 percent of the total population in South Asia lack access to proper sanitation and more than 2.8 million children under the age of five face severe health risks, according to a recent report by the WaterAid, an international non- profit organization, that helps people escape the poverty and disease caused by living without safe water and sanitation.
The report said: The South Asian countries — India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives pledged their commitment at the first South Asian Conference on Sanitation in 2003 to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals on water and sanitation, which aims at achieving a 50 percent reduction in the number of people without proper sanitation by 2015.
But the promises made by most of the South Asian countries seem to be futile as thousands of children below the age of five still die every day due to improper sanitation, and one in every eight people drink contaminated water across South Asia.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, diarrhoea and pneumonia are the main cause of child modality, causing more than one million deaths in South Asia in 2008. It is estimated that safe disposal of excreta and improved hygiene practices could have reduced related deaths by 65 percent.
“About one billion people in South Asian nations do not practice proper sanitation and remain exposed to severe health risks in addition to environmental pollution,” Mustafa Talpur, the Regional Advocacy and Policy Advisor for WaterAid said. He said only Sri Lanka and Maldives in South Asia have achieved progress in the water and sanitation sector. The Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) and Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka said nearly 200,000 people are still engaged in open defecation in Sir Lanka and urged the government commitment to provide clean water and toilet facilities for them.
April 4, 2011, 10:10 pm