Sanitation-for-all aim elusive: Experts

Kathmandu, November 28:

Data of the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) shows that over 14 million people in the country are defecating out in the open every day.

Now, let’s dwell on what the government aims to do by 2017: It aims to provide sanitation services to all by 2017. Given the present scenario, the government’s aim seems to be a bit elusive. While experts say the situation is critical, the government continues to pay scant attention to this problem.

This fiscal, the government has allocated Rs 36 million for drinking water and sanitation sectors.

A governmental report shows that over 80 per cent of the diseases affecting people in Nepal are caused by contaminated water and lack of sanitation services. According to the report, people spend Rs 2.2 to 3.2 billion annually for the treatment of water-borne and vector-borne diseases, which are caused due to open defecation and improper sanitation.

“The government’s role is insignificant, making it practically impossible to achieve the target,” said Prakash Amatya, executive director of the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation.

“Government-run programmes are rural-biased; they are limited to construction of toilets,” Amatya said. The definition of sanitation has been limited to toilet construction; their use has never been ensured, he said.

Sanitation is an urban problem also because human wastes are discharged to rivers from houses, Amatya said, adding that the government should equally focus on urban sanitation and ‘sanitation beyond toilets’.

“Awareness should be at the core,” he said, stressing proper maintenance of sewerage lines and water treatment plants in urban areas. In rural areas, besides construction of toilets, the focus should also be on personal hygiene and proper use of toilets, he said.

There is no doubt that improved sanitation facilities and their proper use can reduce water and vector-borne diseases as well as mortality, morbidity, improper growth and malnutrition, said Anil Sthapit, director of ‘Guthi’, an NGO working on water and sanitation sectors.

As the year 2008 has been declared as the ‘International Year of Sanitation’, the government has to work effectively and more seriously to achieve desired goals, he added.