Unclean India: Pak way ahead on sanitation | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Unclean India: Pak way ahead on sanitation

A UNICEF report card on sanitation facilities in South Asia has placed Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka above India., reports Chetan Chauhan.

delhi Updated: Nov 18, 2008 02:24 IST
Chetan Chauhan

A UNICEF report card on sanitation facilities in South Asia has placed Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka above India.

Between 1990 and 2006, about 40 per cent of people in Pakistan gained access to sanitation facilities as compared to just 20 per cent in India.

The comparative data was released by the United Nations Children’s Fund on the eve of the third South Asian conference on sanitation to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday.

William (Bill) Fellows, regional UNICEF advisor, attributed Pakistan’s better showing on lesser number of people opting for open defecation. “There can be something in Pakistan’s culture that restricts open defecation, which is not found in India,” he said.

In Pakistan just 31 per cent of people defecate in open as compared to 58 per cent in India, the UNICEF report said.

But, Lizette Burgers, UNICEF’s sanitation advisor, blamed India’s huge population growth and low starting base, as major reasons for the country’s poor standing in the region.

“Every year 10.9 million new people in rural India start using toilets. But, the growing population is out placing the government’s effort in providing sanitation facilities to the citizens,” she said.

UNICEF, however, said in the last two years India has made steady progress in providing access to sanitation with an annual rate of improvement being 22 per cent.

India is a major contributor for South Asia being the worst region in the world in providing sanitation. “About 2.5 billion people in South Asia — 64 per cent of the population — don’t have clean sanitation facilities, worst record for any region in the world,” said Therese Dooley, senior advisor at UNICEF’s water division in New York.

This is despite 502 million more people using improved facilities, which has doubled since 1990, but is still short of meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goal by 2015.

Dr SK Singh of NGO WaterAid blamed lack of political will for the region’s poor record. “Politicians are not interested because providing improved sanitation does not convert into votes. Unless they act, things are not doing to change fast.”