President calls for sustainable development

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Guwahati, Oct 20 (UNI) President Pratibha Devisingh Patil today called for sustainable village development and solid waste management while holding low sanitation responsible for the large number of school dropouts.

Giving away Nirmal Gram Puraskar to the village heads of 1,059 villages of 13 states of eastern region, she expressed happiness that the rural people were showing interest in the ''total sanitation'' campaign.

She said the Union Rural Development Ministry had introduced the Nirmal Gram Puraskar scheme in 2003 as an initiative for the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Last year about 5,000 villages were awarded and this year the number had increased to over 11,140.

''The key to success of such community-based programmes is awareness building and capacity development of stakeholders and institutions, especially Gram Panchayats, which have a primary role in carrying forward the sanitation agenda,'' she said.

''It is important that village communities impart knowledge about technology options to meet user preferences and afford ability. I would urge that management of solid and liquid wastes be made an essential part of the sanitation drive. Treated waste can be used as manure to increase agricultural productivity and gas used for cooking. Moreover, waste management contributes to keeping the environment clean,'' Ms Patil said.

She also linked up the high school dropouts of female students with sanitation. ''Many studies have pointed out that one of the reasons for high dropout rates among adolescent girls in our country is lack of sanitation facilities in schools. Imparting education to the girl child is of great importance in making our nation progressive. I would call on the Panchayats to focus on this aspect also.'' About sustainable village development, the President said, ''Recently, I visited a village close to Pune and was deeply impressed by how its people had, through multiple activities, generated income. This resulted in reverse migration. Many who had left their villages for cities were now returning to work and live there. Many national and global problems, whether food security or climate change, can be tackled by looking at sustainable development of villages and the agricultural sector.'' Ms Patil urged the non-government organisations and government to work in close cooperation with the people in this direction.

The sanitation movement has not been particularly successful in the North East, especially Assam, except Sikkim, which is the top state of the region in its implementation.

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