South Asian Conference On Sanitation Kicks Off In Sri Lanka

The fourth South Asian Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) kicked off Monday in the Sri Lankan capital city of Colombo, to raise awareness about the “sanitation crisis in the region,” Xinhua reports (4/3). 

The four-day meeting – which will include attendees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – will focus on ways to improve water and sanitation in the region and influence policy decisions on the topic, Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardana said during a press conference ahead of the meeting, the Daily News reports (Kurugala, 4/4).

“Around one billion people or 64 percent of the total population in South Asia lack access to proper sanitation, and more than 2.8 million children under the age of five face severe health risks, according to a recent report by the [nonprofit group] WaterAid,” Xinhua continues.

Although the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan pledged their commitment to achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goal target related to water and sanitation during the first South Asian Conference on Sanitation, the majority are falling short of this goal, Xinhua reports.

However, Mustafa Talpur, the regional advocacy and policy adviser for WaterAid, said Sri Lanka and the Maldives are on track to reach the water and sanitation MDG (4/3).

Speaking during a two-day international consultative meeting in Colombo ahead of the SACOSAN meeting, Ramisetti Murali of Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA) spoke of health impacts of poor water and sanitation, reports.

“[O]fficial data reveals that around 750,000 children have so far reportedly died due to the diarrhea since last SACOSAN,” Murali said. He also “said 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 [a part] of country constitution.”

“Governments of South Asian countries must be held accountable to the commitments they made at the SACOSAN, said Ceridwen Johnson,” global network and communications manager for Freshwater Action Network, according to the news service (Shaikh, 4/3). The Sunday Observer features a Q&A with Sri Lanka’s Gunawardena, who describes how the country has been able to make progress on water and sanitation issues (Sriyananda, 4/3).

China Vows To Clean Up Water In Rural Areas

During a conference on the environment in rural areas last week, China’s vice-minister of environmental protection vowed to clean up pollution in rural areas, saying “especially pollution from agricultural sources, will be a top priority” for the country “in the coming years,” Nature News reports. According to the publication, “This is the first time that the protection of the rural environment has been included in the country’s five-year budget plan.”

According to Nature News, “Li said that the ministry aims to clean up 60,000 villages by 2015, focusing on regions important for freshwater resources and where pollution has had a negative impact on health – such as villages with high rates of cancer or endemic diseases.” The article describes plans for public outreach campaigns as well (Qiu, 4/1).

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