November 4, 2011, 9:50 pm
By Ifham Nizam
SAARC needs to recognize the sanitation crisis in the region and challenge the inequity in the provision and distribution of resources, a senior official of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council said.
Speaking at the launch of the report ‘South Asian People’s Perspectives on Sanitation’ on Thursday in Colombo, the Council’s Networking and Knowledge Management, Programme Manager, Archana Patkar said that governments needed to engage proactively to provide stronger leadership to water, sanitation and hygiene.
She said: “Regional mechanisms for implementation, coordination, research and knowledge sharing through the existing SAARC Secretariat is needed to strengthen the SACOSAN process.”
For people in South Asia, sanitation means ‘cleanliness’ and ‘dignity’, according to the report launched on Thursday by international development organisation WaterAid, together with Fresh Water Action Network-South Asia (FANSA) and the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
The report was launched ahead of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation social policy forum in the Maldives from November 10-11.
WaterAid Regional Officer Mustafa Talpur said that the report was the result of interviews and focus group discussions with needy communities and social groups across Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and aimed to bring the people behind the crude statistics into the sanitation debate.
“In 25 years and 16 summits, sanitation has never been on the agenda of SAARC. The global Millennium Development Goal target for sanitation by 2015 rests with countries in South Asia; if South Asia makes progress on sanitation, the world will make progress,” he said.
He also said that in South Asia, promising economic growth was countered with poor human development, poverty and disease, with almost half the region’s population without improved sanitation and more than seven hundred million people forced to defecate in the open.
Ramisetty Muraili, of FANSA, said: “The report clearly indicates that people want to live a life of dignity and health but are frustrated by the lack of effective support and the failure of poorly planned and implemented projects, while some communities are reluctant to adopt safe hygiene practices because of sociological and cultural barriers, and extreme poverty.”
Centre for Environmental Justice, Executive Director Hemantha Withanage said that the study appealed to policy makers to re-vamp institutional mechanisms that allowed for community participation in sanitation projects.
He added that above all the report called for greater accountability and transparency measures, and a focus on human-centered development, targeting ‘below poverty’ communities in India and the ‘hardcore poor’ of Bangladesh and Nepal.