Prioritise sanitation in development process: PM

November 18th, 2008 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Sanitation needs to be given priority in development policy approaches, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday, and suggested a four-point roadmap to make this universally available to all citizens.”Good sanitation should be a birthright of every citizen of South Asia,” he said while inaugurating the Third South Asian Conference on Sanitation here.

For this to happen, firstly, “sanitation issues need to be given priority in our development policy approaches,” he stressed.

“Its cross-cutting implications need deep study and greater understanding. The role of community leadership in changing old habits and ways of thinking will be crucial as our own experience has shown,” the prime minister said.

“The capacities of our rural and urban local bodies to address these issues from both social and economic angles will need to be enhanced,” he noted.

Secondly, he said, sanitation has to be located in an integrated framework of public health policy to ensure that sanitation activities are indeed adequately funded.

“We know, for example, that something as simple as washing hands properly can check 50 percent of the diarrhoea cases in our country. Provision of safe drinking water can also greatly help to contain the incidence of many water-borne diseases. Similarly, provision of toilets near the habitat can protect our women against many stomach related diseases.”

Thus, Manmohan Singh said, “conscious efforts have to be made to invest in hygiene consciousness and sanitation as part of a holistic public health policy”.

The third area, according to the prime minister, was technology.

“We need to develop sanitation technologies for diverse eco-systems. Advances in science and technology make it possible as never before in human history that chronic poverty and ill health do not have to be the inevitable lot of a majority of human race.”

Noting that the new technologies have to be affordable and sustainable, Manmohan Singh said: “This is a technology challenge we must work on, using both modern science and traditional wisdom and knowledge.”

“We know that advanced technologies exist for toilets used in space programmes. We also know that traditional water systems were engineered in our villages to optimise scarce resources, including the use of water,” he said.

“We should, therefore, use scientific ingenuity to take us to the next generation of sanitation technologies,” Manmohan Singh said.

Fourthly, he maintained, the issue of sustainability needed to be addressed.

“I am told that 20 percent of the toilets built in our country are not functional because of a variety of factors, from poor construction to the lack of adequate maintenance. We need, therefore, to build local capacity in construction and maintenance of sanitation facilities,” the prime minister contended.

In this context, he pointed out that India had, for some time, been advocating a “barefoot engineers” programme where rural youth are trained in multiple engineering skills to repair agricultural pump sets, hand pumps, rural household power connections, agricultural implements and sanitation facilities.

“In our country we have conceived of a major national initiative for skill development. I hope that we will be able to integrate training of barefoot engineers into this national plan,” the prime minister stated.

This apart, he said India “will be very happy to share our experience” with other countries of South Asia and also to learn and gain from their experience in tackling problems of rural sanitation.

“In recent years, all the countries in South Asia are working on making sanitation a priority development investment. It is our solemn obligation duty to ensure that every citizen South Asia has access to a functioning toilet,” Manmohan Singh said.

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