KARACHI – The South Asian chapters of the UK-based charity WaterAid – including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal – have welcomed that one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been achieved. According to a UN statement, between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people globally gained access to an improved water source.
WaterAid has welcomed the data that the world has met its goal to bring safe drinking water to millions of the world’s poorest people and has called for a renewed effort to reach the millions still waiting.
The joint monitoring programme (JMP) for water supply and sanitation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, after measuring the official data on the status of achieving the goals between 1990 and 2010, has said more than 2 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells. Using data from household surveys and censuses, the JMP said at the end of 2010, 89 percent of the population – 6.1 billion people – now used improved drinking water sources, one percent more than the 88 percent target contained in MDG number seven, set in the year 2000.
However, WaterAid South Asian chapters have expressed grave concern over the data on the sanitation status, according to which 11 percent of the world’s population – 783 million people – are still without access to safe water, and the MDG to improve basic sanitation, such as access to latrines and hygienic waste collection, is still far from being met. Around 2.5 billion people still lack basic sanitation.
Mustafa Talpur, WaterAid’s regional advocacy manager for South Asia, said that despite several commitments, South Asia is lagging behind other regions in sanitation. “This is an affront to citizens’ rights. We need a better monitoring mechanism to improve sector governance and bring the required accountability to ensure that programmes and policies are delivering and governments are reaching people with the greatest need,” Talpur added.
Talpur demanded effective regional cooperation to collectively address the common sanitation challenge, through governments investing more and targeting the un-served and proactively engaging in the existing regional and global mechanisms – the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) and Sanitation and Water for All partnership (SWA).
Abdul Hafeez, manager advocacy of WaterAid in Pakistan, said: “It is very encouraging that the world has met the MDG on water. Good progress has been in Pakistan, but sustaining the water services and monitoring quality are the greater challenges in the country.”
In Pakistan, 14 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water and over 90 million are without improved sanitation “The state of sanitation – globally, regionally and nationally – is of even greater concern. It is highly unacceptable that 40 million people nearly one fourth of the population in Pakistan practice open defecation which is an affront on their right to live with dignity,” Hafeez said.
Pakistan’s sanitation target under the MDGs is 67 percent and currently 48 percent people are using improved sanitation. The progress to achieve sanitation targets in the last two years has been very slow – 1.5 percent annually. At this rate of progress, it will take more than 10 years to achieve the MDGs and 34 years to provide universal access.
WaterAid has called on the Pakistani government to strengthen and clarify institutional roles for implementing sanitation programmes, expedite reform process at provincial level to prepare time bound action plan to translate policies into real actions. It also called upon the federal government and provincial governments to prepare a programme to target un-served and excluded people and fulfill commitments made at the 2011 SACOSAN.
On the 20th of next month, the Pakistani government will be attending the SWA meeting to take stock of progress made since 2010. The SWA is a key global inter-governmental partnership, that brings together developing and donor countries to tackle the water and sanitation crisis. Pakistan to benefit from this global partnership needs to spend more on sanitation from domestic resources and politically prioritise sanitation in development programmes.
Khairul Islam, country representative of WaterAid in Bangladesh, said, “News that the world has met the MDG on water is a great encouragement. Good progress has been made on water in Bangladesh, yet arsenic contamination still blights large areas of the country,” he added.
In Bangladesh, 28 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water and over 65 million are without improved sanitation. “The state of sanitation – globally, regionally and nationally – is of even greater concern,” continued Islam. “While open defecation figures are relatively low in Bangladesh, we are seeing a new second generation problem of sludge management evolving in urban areas.”
New figures have revealed that South Asia, as a region, is facing an even more daunting challenge in sanitation. The target for providing access to sanitation – which is even more crucial in tackling killer diseases in developing countries – is one of the most off track of all the MDG targets. Over a billion people in South Asia do not yet have access and the region has the highest proportion of people still practicing open defecation, 67 percent (690 million).
Currently 2.5 billion people around the world still live without adequate sanitation. Globally, it is predicted, the MDG on sanitation would not be reached until 2026.
The officials of WaterAid India have sad the new figures revealed that the South Asia region is facing an even more daunting challenge with sanitation. The target for providing access to sanitation – which is even more crucial in tackling killer diseases in developing countries – is one of the most off track of all the MDG targets.
In India, more than 808 million people are without improved sanitation. Of the 2.5 billion living without adequate sanitation globally, 32 percent live in India. Open defecation remains a considerable challenge with India home to 60 percent of the global population practicing open defecation (620 million people).