'Access to clean water vital for inclusive growth': VP

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New Delhi, Mar 20 (UNI) Vice President Hamid Ansari today said that it is vital that people should have access to basic facilities including clean drinking water and improved sanitation for inclusive and sustainable growth.

Inaugurating the the World Water Day 2008 at Vigyan Bhavan, Dr Ansari said it is only fair that the government should lay emphasis on safe water and improved sanitation in tune with the needs of development, environment and public health aspects, he said. The focus should be on sanitation because the year 2008 has been declared International Sanitation Year.

Noting that only 38 per cent of the Indian households had access to safe drinking water in 1981, he said the figures had gone up to 78 per cent in 2001. The progress had been witnessed mainly in rural areas whinch had seen a quantum jump of 73 per cent from 26 percent in 1981. The National Water Policy had accorded top priority to drinking water in the planning and operation of the water resources system so also the success of the ''Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme''. Sanitation facilities continued to remain a major challenge as only a third of the population had coverage with improved sanitation.

Dr Ansari said rapid economic growth through targeted interventions had been the principle instruments for alleviating poverty and they should not be seen merely as essential public services from the welfare perspective. ''They are critical determinants of economic opportunities for our citizens and pre conditions for sustainable long-term growth'', he said.

He said there should be partnerships with NGOs and civil society as part of our efforts, at both the micro and macro levels.

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