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India gears up to achieve sanitation for all
" Inaugurating the conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh © UNICEF/ India/Rakesh Saini Inaugurating the conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requested the State Governments to empower rural and "

In a bid to accelerate the process of providing “Sanitation for All”, one year ahead of the International Year of Sanitation in 2008, the Indian Government has made an ambitious pledge to cover all anganwadis and schools on a priority basis and community toilets will be made where the community is willing to manage and maintain the assets created.

Solid and liquid waste management will be incorporated in sanitation initiatives and all the States will need to promote these, State Ministers and senior officials attending a recent two-day “Conference of Ministers of State Governments in charge of rural drinking water supply and sanitation” were urged.

Inaugurating the conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requested the State Governments to empower rural and urban local bodies to handle water supply.

Observing that often water-borne diseases occur even in those habitations where safe water has been provided, he urged the Department of Drinking Water to take proactive action to sensitise the community on safe water and its use. On the occasion, the Prime Minister released three booklets, two on waste management and one on the new Meena Initiative, which details personal hygiene and safe water use.

As the deliberations drew to a close in Delhi on July 5, 2007 the consensus among the delegates was for enhancing norms for construction costs of toilets and the need for strict vigilance and monitoring systems, especially where the work has not started, at village, block and district level.

Assuring all cooperation in these endeavours, the Minister for Rural Development, Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, suggested that NGOs and Self-Help Groups could be involved in the programmes of rural sanitation for awareness creation and for better water management.

“Sustainability of water sources” and “Sanitation for All” were the main focus of the Conference. The progress of all States under the Bharat Nirman programme was reviewed for 2006-07 and an action plan for coverage of all uncovered rural habitations till 2009, to tackle the problem of quality affected habitations and to restore the status of habitations that have slipped back to fully covered status were discussed.

A State-wise review was conducted on the progress of the Sub Mission on Water Quality projects and the National Rural Drinking Water Quality Monitoring & Surveillance programme. Till June 2007, a total of 572 districts are implementing the total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) at a cost of Rs 12,495 Crore. But the disquieting news is that the sanitation coverage in 2007 was only 45 per cent and 30 districts scattered across Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Punjab and West Bengal have shown nil progress.

In all the Centrally-sponsored schemes, the Central Government funding has to be supplemented by the States by releasing their share of funds. However, as many as 194 districts are yet to get the State’s share of funds for the sanitation schemes.

To realize the goal of “Sanitation for All”, urgent corrective action is required by the States on proper monitoring of districts and regular updation of progress as well as contact persons. The usage of Web- Based Integrated Management Information Systems developed by the Department of Drinking Water Supply for all future programmes / expenditure was also impressed upon the participants.

The Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (NRSA) made a Presentation on the use of geo-informatics for locating water sources. The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has provided the expertise regarding the preparation of hydro-geo-morphological maps for better planning and the States have been requested to coordinate with the State-Level centres of the CGWB in this regard
The participating Ministers in-charge of water and sanitation raised various state specific issues during the Conference. The demand for revising the funding pattern for special category States like the North East and the hilly regions was also highlighted.

Among the States which have made laudatory progress in promoting safe sanitation practices are Orissa where hundreds of people in different parts of the State were administered oaths by their respective three-tier Panchayat body to ensure good hygiene. Arunachal Pradesh, with a population density of 13 people per square km and 26 major tribes besides a number of sub-tribes all having their own ethos, dialects and cultural identities, has also made tremendous inroads in sanitation. This is best illustrated by the example of Kaba, a small village with a population of about 120, mostly Buddhists, who all came forward to change mindsets and traditional practices like open defecation. Today, the village has attained 100 per cent sanitation with the schools maintaining separate toilets for boys and girls.

Perhaps the most welcome initiative has been started in Tamil Nadu where special allocation under the sanitation programme has been made to the Women’s Self-help groups to make sanitary napkins. The napkins are made available to women and adolescent girls at a cost of Rs 1 or Rs 1.50 per napkin. The used napkins are effectively destroyed in incinerators.

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