Participants of the pre-meeting SACOSAN IV lined up outside makeshift toilet as symbol to highlight sanitation crisis in South Asia –Photo by Saleem Shaikh

COLOMBO: Civil society members at an international consultative meeting, just ahead of the fourth South Asian Conference, on Sanitation (SACOSAN), in Sri Lanka, called upon their respective governments to hammer out viably equitable and inclusive sanitation and hygiene programmes.

They strongly urged for a time-bound action plan for delivering the previous SACOSAN commitments made in Dhaka, Islamabad and Delhi.

The four-day fourth SACOSAN, to be held from Monday in Colombo is expected to focus on safe sanitation and hygiene issues. The ministerial level meeting will conclude on April 7.

Talking during a post consultative meeting press conference, Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA) convener Ramisetti Murali said despite commitments during last SACOSAN, the South Asian countries have not made progress in providing basic sanitation, due to which millions of the people in these countries are suffering.

“I visited Hyderabad Dakhan last year where 12 people reportedly died of contaminated water due to the absence of basic sanitation system in the area, but it is not the only example, official data reveals that around 750,000 children have so far reportedly died due to the diarrhea since last SACOSAN and that is an alarming figure,” he said.

He said that although the South Asian countries have rectified the United Nations declaration that states sanitation as a basic human right, all these countries have so far not made it as party of country constitution.

He said that sanitation is also related to health and the worst sanitation causes an increase in the cost of health budget.

“Poor sanitation now stands as a major obstacle in the fight to reduce child mortality in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan,” he said.

Governments of South Asian countries must be held accountable to the commitments they made at the SACOSAN, said Ceridwen Johnson, FAN Global Network and Communications Manger.

Around 140 representatives from civil society groups from the South Asian countries that included Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan, and from international organisations working in the region, gathered in Colombo to exchange experiences and draft peoples’ demands from the governments of South Asian Countries for the betterment of the sanitation crisis.

The Delhi Declaration 2008 set out clear commitments and milestones for tackling the crisis. It also recognised that access to safe sanitation and drinking water is a basic right and in particular that national priority to sanitation is imperative. This reaffirmed the commitment to achieving millennium development goals on sanitation by 2015.

Non-government organisations—Freshwater Action Network, South Asia, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and Water Aid jointly organised the two-day consultation meeting that began Friday.

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