Prime Minister of India inaugurating the Third South Asian Conference on 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.”
With these words, the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh inaugurated the third South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) in New Delhi. The Conference holds a special significance because the year 2008 has been declared as the International Year of Sanitation. Themed on Sanitation for Dignity and Health, the conference is being attended by participants from over eight South-Asian countries. Startling reports indicate the PM’s constituency to have the least number of toilets within India!
Previously hosted by Dhaka, Bangladesh and Islamadabad, Pakistan, SACOSAN is a unique platform that brings together experts on sanitation, civil society and the governments from all across the Indian sub-continent. The four day long SACOSAN III has been mainly focused on topics such as sanitation and sustainability, sanitation and community and ecological sanitation while also highlighting the underlying theme of sanitation for dignity and health.
In his speech, the Prime Minister also called for giving priority to sanitation issues in India’s development policy approaches. The right technology in the public health policy is indeed the key to good sanitation, in a country where the population far exceeds the number of toilets. In fact a survey carried out by the India chapter of the UK based WaterAid, declares the very political constituency of the Prime Minister in the Northeastern state of Assam as the one with the least number of toilets.
According to the same study, a figure twice that of the US’s population is the number of people in India who still defecate in the open every morning. It is for this reason that alternatives are being though of and have already been put on the table. In a bid to utilize human waste as a resource to be recycled and reused so that it does not contaminate land or water, the concept of sanitation beyond toilets has been much popular in the conference.