SACOSAN IV - Opening Address
Tom Palakudiyil, Head of Asia, WaterAid
Honourable chairperson, Professor Munasinghe and distinguished delegates to SACOSAN IV. It is indeed a privilege to bring you greetings from WaterAid and to wish all success to this unique gathering of sanitation professionals.
The previous speakers have already spoken about the immensity of the sanitation challenge that we face and made a powerful case for collective efforts towards addressing this challenge.
Ahead of next week’s South Asian Conference on Sanitation in Sri Lanka, international development agency WaterAid urges countries in the region– India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bhutan - to invest in sanitation, to save the over 2.8 million children living in the region.
A staggering 750,000 children under the age of five in the region have died from diarrhoea, caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water, since the last SACOSAN conference in Delhi two years ago.
A major regional conference that focuses on water and sanitation, the South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) inaugurated on 4th April 2011 in Colombo was chaired by Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardana. This biennial convention held on a rotational basis in each SAARC country since 2003 is being held in Sri Lanka for its 4th session and to be attended by about 450 delegates from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives and Afghanistan.
Open defecation and unsafe latrines together account for a high toll taken by water-borne diseases in South Asia. In fact, between 2008 and 2011, that is, the interval between SACOSAN III held in New Delhi and SACOSAN IV that recently concluded in Colombo, 750,000 children under 5 succumbed to diarrhoea, dysentery and jaundice in the region. In spite of the 2008 Delhi Declaration by governments in South Asia recognising access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right at SACOSAN III, progress in sanitation remains tardy and uneven.
The Sri Lankan government aims to reach 100 per cent coverage in safe sanitation and water by 2020, said Minister of Water Supply and Drainage Dinesh Gunawardena at the Fourth South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN-IV). The current coverage figure for safe water and sanitation was 85.5 per cent, the minister stated.
South Asian nations at a regional conference on sanitation on Tuesday resolved to give priority to sanitation in their respective development agenda with focus on safe disposal of human excreta.
South Asian ministers have vowed to tackle the “biggest sanitation challenge in the world”. In the Colombo Declaration released on 7 April 2011 at the 4th South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN IV), they promise to set up a national body in each country to “coordinate sanitation and hygiene, involving all stakeholders”. The aim of these bodies would be to enable access to sanitation to the 700 million south Asians who still defecate in the open.
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa opened the Ministerial Summit of the Fourth South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN - IV) at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo on 6th April, 2011.
Sri Lanka is close to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in respect of Sanitation, Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardana said.
He was addressing the Fourth South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN- IV) at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel yesterday.
Colombo, Sri Lanka: Over a hundred civil society members, community leaders and grassroots activists from across the region queued today behind a giant toilet, in a rainbow of national dress, to highlight the nearly one billion people living without access to adequate sanitation in South Asia.