English Release 24-May 2013
- Vice President's Secretariat
- Vice President Greets Citizens on Buddha Purnima
Prime Minister's Office18-November, 2008 19:58 IST
|PM addresses the Third South Asian Conference
| The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurated the Third South Asian Conference on Sanitation in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion:
“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.
Sanitation has a strong connection not only with personal hygiene but also with human dignity and well-being, public health, nutrition and even education. 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.
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. 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.
I am happy that things are changing and changing for the better. In recent years, all the countries in South Asia are working on making sanitation a priority development investment. It is our solemn obligation duty to ensure that every citizen South Asia has access to a functioning toilet.
In India we have worked hard to correct the neglect of the past in this vital area. In the past five years, the government has increased investment in rural sanitation by as much as six times and I compliment my colleague Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh for having brought a dedicated spirit to give guidance to this vital programme.
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. 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.
I wish to place a few general issues for your consideration.
First, sanitation issues need to be given priority in our development policy approaches. Its cross cutting implications need deep study and greater understanding. The role of community leadership in changing old habits and ways of thinking will be crucial as our own experience has shown. The capacities of our rural and urban local bodies to address these issue from both social and economic angles will need to be enhanced.
Second, sanitation has to be located in an integrated framework of public health policy to ensure that sanitation activities are indeed adequately funded. We know for example that something as simple as washing hands properly can check 50% of the diarrhoea cases in our country. Provision of safe drinking water can also greatly help to contain the incidence of many water borne diseases. Similarly, provision of toilets near the habitat can protect our women against many stomach related diseases. Therefore, conscious efforts have to be made to invest in hygiene consciousness and sanitation as part of a holistic public health policy.
Third is the area of technology. We need to develop sanitation technologies for diverse eco-systems. Advances in science and technology make it possible as never before in human history that chronic poverty and ill health do not have to be the inevitable lot of a majority of human race. The new technologies have to be affordable and sustainable. This is a technology challenge we must work on, using both modern science and traditional wisdom and knowledge. We know that advanced technologies exist for toilets used in pir space programmes. We also know that traditional water systems were engineered in our villages to optimize scarce resources including the use of water. We should, therefore, use scientific ingenuity to take us to the next generation of sanitation technologies.
Fourth, we need to address the issue of sustainability. I am told that 20% of the toilets built in our country are not functional because of a variety of factors, from poor construction to the lack of adequate maintenance. We need, therefore, to build local capacity in construction and maintenance of sanitation facilities.
We have been, for some time, advocating a “barefoot engineers” programme where rural youth are trained in multiple engineering skills to repair agricultural pumpsets, handpumps, rural household power connections, agricultural implements and sanitation facilities. In our country we have conceived of a major national initiative for skill development. I hope that we will be able to integrate training of barefoot engineers into this national plan.
We will be very happy to share our experience with other countries of South Asia and also to learn and gain from their experience in tackling problems of rural sanitation.
We should look upon human waste as a resource to be recycled and reused so that it does not contaminate our land or water. This is a particular challenge in our fast urbanising habitats. The more we urbanize and industrialize, this challenge will gain in importance and sooner we get prepared to tackle it, the better it is for all.
I am happy that one of the themes of your conference is “Sanitation beyond toilets”. We should explore new models of solid and liquid waste management through innovative and even income generating schemes.
I am very happy that the governments of South Asia are cooperating on the issues that really matter to our teeming millions. The Conference should set out a regional agenda for action on the theme of your Conference “Sanitation for Dignity and Health”. Let us work together to realize Gandhi’s clarion call for total sanitation and assure a life of dignity and good health to all citizens of South Asia. Good sanitation should be a birthright of every citizen of South Asia. Through these words, I once again extend a very warm welcome to all the Ministers and Delegates from other countries of South Asia. I wish your deliberations all success.”
(Release ID :44884)