New Delhi, Nov 18 : Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurated the Third South Asian Conference on Sanitation in New Delhi today.
"I am delighted to be here today at the Third South Asian Conference on Sanitation. This Conference has a very special significance because the year 2008 has been declared as the International Year of Sanitation," Dr. Singh said.
Sanitation has a strong connection not only with personal hygiene but also with human dignity and well-being, public health, nutrition and even education, he said.
Mahatma Gandhi had once said "Sanitation is more important than independence". He made cleanliness and sanitation an integral part of the Gandhian way of living. His dream was total sanitation for all, Dr. Singh added.
"The past record in providing sanitation facilities particularly in our region of South Asia has not been very encouraging. A fact sheet on the International Year of Sanitation states that nearly 2.6 billion people including a billion children lack access to effective sanitary facilities resulting in avoidable infant mortality," he said.
"In our region, nearly a billion people are without effective sanitation services. This is a major challenge and will require an all out effort by each of our seven countries," the Prime Minister said.
"The big change in the Indian effort on rural sanitation came when we began to use the energy of our local bodies for sanitation. An incentive-based "Nirmal Gram Puraskar" or Clean Village Award was crafted into our campaign for total sanitation. This has led to community leadership taking up the campaign to bring about total sanitation in our villages as their priority concern," he said.
Dr. Singh said that panchayats are competing with each other to win the Nirmal Gram Puraskar. This mobilization of the resources of the civil society is a very shining example of the initiatives that our Ministry of Rural Development has taken in recent years.