Political will needed to address sanitation, water issues: experts

ISLAMABAD: Due to rapid urbanisation and lack of adequate investments in water and sanitation infrastructure, around 79 million people lack decent toilets in Pakistan and over 53,000 children under the age of five years die of diarrhea each year.

However, experts working in the field have expressed the confidence that the situation would change speedily in the near future.

“Political will to address water, sanitation and hygiene (Wash) is visible,” said Tim Wainwright, the chief executive for WaterAid, a UK-based INGO working in the Wash sector. It has several projects in Pakistan, including partnership in the Clean Green School Programme (CGSP), a pilot project launched in Islamabad.

Under the CGSP, students of 423 public schools in the federal capital will study comprehensive activity-based and child-friendly curricula on climate and environmental education.

Talking to media here on Tuesday, Mr Wainwright said governments in the developing world, including South Asia, should invest more in human development.

“But such issues including water and sanitation are not much appreciated among the electorates. However, we see the realisation at the political level in Pakistan,” he added.

Mr Wainwright along with Tim Clark, the chairman Board of Trustees WaterAid, is in Pakistan to attend the launch of Pakistan Clean Green Index inaugurated by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday.

Mr Wainwright said the target of WaterAid was that all residents of the world should have clean water, hygiene and decent toilets by 2030.

“We convince governments to change laws, link policymakers with people on the ground, pool knowledge and resources and rally support from people and organisations around the world, making a lasting change on a massive scale.”

He added that the growth of social media had helped put pressure on authorities but small towns and rural areas lacked capacity to manage water and sanitation issues.

Apart from the pilot project in Islamabad, WaterAid has a flagship programme in Muzaffargarh in southern Punjab and due to its efforts the district will be open defecation-free in coming months.

Meanwhile, Mr Clark said with sixth largest population and increasing urbanisation Pakistan was prone to natural disasters too.

“There is a need to develop awareness and take local communities onboard so that they own the Wash-related projects and manage them.”

He added that the government planning should be based on local cultures, demography and ground realities.

According to WaterAid, one in three people in the world do not have a decent toilet of their own while one in nine do not have clean water close to home.

Published in Dawn, 27 November 2019


Kalbe Ali

Reporter in Dawn

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