India to achieve MDG on rural sanitation ahead of schedule

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New Delhi, Sep 18 (UNI) Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh today said a silent revolution in the sanitation sector has occurred increasing coverage from one per cent in 1981 to 48 per cent in 2007 making it possible for the country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal in hygiene ahead of schedule.

Inaugurating the 11-day Second International Learning Exchange Program (ILE) 2007, a collaborative effort of UNICEF and the Department of Drinking Water Supply of his Ministry, beginning today, Dr Singh said India has been investing tremendously in water and sanitation, especially in the tenth Five Year Plan.

Today, 90 per cent of rural population has access to safe drinking water and 48 per cent has access to toilets and sanitation services, he informed. ''However, millions of people still have no access, especially to sanitation services which was important for environmental cleanliness and proper health and hygiene of our people particularly women and children. In the absence of it, many people die due to various water and sanitation-related diseases.

Globally, some 1.8 million child die each year as a result of diarrhoea which meant 4,900 deaths each day.'' According to UNCIEF 2006 report, deaths from diarrhea in 2004 were some six times greater than the average annual deaths in armed conflict for the 1990s. Even in India, close of 1000 children die very day due to diarrhoea.

He said the Government was committed to sustain this momentum by increasing its reach and fund allocation which was increased for the Total Sanitation Programme from Rs 740 crore in 2006-07 to Rs.1060 crore in the current year marking an increase of 43 percent over the previous year. Today, the programme has crossed Rs 12,000 crore mark in its total outlay making it one of the largest sanitation progrmmes in the world. New components like Solid and Liquid Waste Management has been added for improving environmental cleanliness.

Efforts were being intensified to focus on school sanitation, aganwadi and community sanitation.

''We are sure that we will able to make India open defecation free as well as meet international commitments by 2012, particularly MDG.

My belief is reaffirmed by the success of Nirmal Gram Puruskar, which is an incentive scheme to add vigour to the sanitation drive and is given to Gram Panchayats, Blocks and Districts.'' ''ILE 2007 has been designed to provide greater learning opportunities and exchange of ideas with inclusion of new topics and modules in the water and sanitation sector in India. Delegates from over 20 countries participating in ILE will be visiting nine states to witness the paradigm shift in rural sanitation in India due to the innovative financial incentive - The Nirmal Gram Puraskar - as part of the larger Total Sanitation Campaign and how it has empowered people,'' he said.

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