Increase cooperation, develop affordable tech for sanitation: PM

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New Delhi, Nov 18 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today called for increasing cooperation among South Asian countries in the field of sanitation to achieve the goal of total sanitation necessary for ensuring a life of dignity and good health to all people.

Inaugurating the Third South Asian Conference on Sanitation here on theme of Sanitation and Development and Dignity, Dr Singh stressed the need for developing affordable and sustainable sanitation technologies to meet the needs of diverse eco-systems.

By combining science like sanitation available for space programme and traditional knowledge used in villages it could be done.

Dr Singh expressed concern that 2.6 billion people, including a billion children, lack access to effective sanitary facilities resulting in avoidable infant mortality even in this International Year of Sanitation. He said that even in South Asia nearly a billion people are without effective sanitation services, but admitted that the government had the duty to ensure each person a functioning toilet. The Prime Minister pointed out that to meet the goal the investment on sanitation has been increased six times during the recent period resulting in increased sanitation coverage to 58 per cent.

Giving priority to sanitation in development policy approaches was crucial, he said and added that for this the capacities of rural and urban local bodies needed to be enhanced from both social and economic angles. Pointing out that sustainability was a major problem as 20 per cent of toilets built are not functional because of a variety of factors, from poor construction to the lack of maintenance, Dr Singh said that local capacity should be built in construction and maintenance of sanitation facilities.

Moreover, sanitation has to be located in an integrated framework of public health policy to ensure that it was adequately funded.

Citing that washing hands properly can check 50 per cent of the diarrhoea cases, safe drinking water could contain the incidence of many water borne diseases and provision of toilets near the habitat can protect women against many diseases, Dr Singh said and stressed the need for making conscious efforts to invest in hygiene consciousness and sanitation as part of a holistic public health policy.

Stressing the need for recycling of human waste, he said that it should be taken as a resource to be recycled and reused so that it does not contaminate land or water. Viewing of 'Sanitation beyond toilets, was important to explore models of solid and liquid waste management through innovative and even income generating schemes, he said.

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