Community participation in South Asian sanitation A paper published in Public World

Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 10:30

This paper published in collaboration with Public World (London) focuses on the poor sanitation situation in South Asia, which has the highest proportion of people practising open defecation and argues that improvement in sanitation is one of the most important goals that countries in South Asia need to achieve, which can lead to improvement in health outcomes, thus reducing the burden that poor sanitation outcomes can have on the economy and productivity.

According to recent data, only 41% of the people in South Asia have access to improved sanitation facilities with access to infrastructure that can help to isolate or separate human excreta from human contact. Although there have been some improvements with access to sanitation facilities having increased by 23% from 1995 to 2010 in Bangladesh and India, and with Nepal and Pakistan achieving increases of 17%, 20%, 24% respectively over the same time period, the region still lags behind in meeting the Millennium Development Goals sanitation target on schedule.

The paper  informs that as one of the efforts to find solution to this crisis, a forum called SACOSAN (South Asian Conference on Sanitation) has been set up as a part of the efforts to plan and review strategies to accelerate progress in South Asia. The forum has been holding gatherings till recently in different countries in South Asia and has produced a new set of declarations and commitments to tackle the situation in the region.

However, the paper is skeptical of these events/conferences that focus on developments at the broad regional level and argues that these are not always representative of the actual challenges at the ground level. Rather,  experience shows that it is the understanding of the specific country level situation with a focus on local needs and  community participation that yields positive results. A number of examples in countries in South Asia have shown that an understanding of the very specific local level problems, issues and needs can go a long way in successful implementation of the sanitation programmes in the area.

The paper argues that the true value of these conferences can lie in enabling water and sanitation specialists from each country to share their experiences about what has worked, what has not and why this has been the case and that lessons need to be learned about the composition and design of such gatherings. At the same time, the paper argues that the generation and sharing of this knowledge has the potential to make significant changes in how progress can be achieved in the sanitation sector through presentation of success stories, highlighting of initiatives that have rendered particularly favourable results, which can prove to be a valuable source for positive reinforcement.

 A copy of the paper can be downloaded from below: