SACOSAN IV: Colombo declaration tackles “biggest sanitation challenge in the world”

SACOSAN IV logoSouth 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.

In addition governments would “develop time-bound plans and to allocate and mobilise resources for delivering on all the previous SACOSAN commitments.”

Delegates at SACOSAN identified three important funding issues:

the need for dedicated funding, increasing available funding and, most importantly, spending the available funds within the timeframe set.

In the wake of SACOSAN IV, WaterAid together with UNICEF and WSSCC produced a discussion paper highlighting the gaps between government commitments on sanitation and action taken in South Asia. WaterAid and other civil society organisations will continue to track government spending commitments for water and sanitation in South Asia and other developing regions on the new website.

South Asia loses at least 5.8 per cent of its regional GDP due to poor sanitation, it was reported. Since the last SACOSAN in 2008, about 750,000 South Asian children have died of diarrhoea, said Amarananda Abeygunasekara, Secretary, Sri Lankan Ministry of Water Supply and Drainage.

Indian Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Vilasrao Deshmukh said:

“New areas of research and development of cost-effective technologies for sustainable sanitation need to be identified. We also need to develop sanitation technologies for diverse eco systems.”

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who inaugurated the Ministerial session of the Conference, said:

The colossal sums of monies that nations spend on conflicts and wars must be diverted towards development, research and technology to reduce poverty and suffering. […] I am in a position to participate in that process as our government not only has ended a painful, costly war against terrorism, but also reduced our defense expenditure well in excess of 5 percent of GDP before 2005 to around 3 percent in 2010.

Sri Lanka already has committed to provide universal access to water and sanitation by 2020, President Rajapaksa stated. Regarding sanitation, he noted that Sri Lanka and other countries in the South Asia needed to pay greater attention to:

sanitation in schools, facilities for the differently-abled, the adequate provision of toilets in public places, and very importantly, sustainable arrangements for the care and maintenance of these amenities.

The heads of delegation from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were among the more than 300 delegates from government, UN agencies, civil society and private sector that attended SACOSAN IV, which was held from 4-7 April 2011 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Download the Colombo Declaration

Read the CSO Coalition’s Response to SACOSAN-IV, Colombo Declaration

Web site: SACOSAN IV

Source: R.K. Radhakrishnan, The Hindu, 07 Apr 2011 ; Asian Tribune, 07 Apr 2011

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