Members of Parliament, civil society organisations and campaigners from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka marched towards the SAARC secretariat in Kathmandu on Tuesday demanding ‘Right to Sanitation for All.’

Calling upon the SAARC countries to ‘Speak in One Voice’ at the 18th SAARC summit to be held in Nepal this year, the entourage submitted a ‘Citizens Charter’ stressing on recognising sanitation as a legal right.

The Charter urges the governments of South Asia to spend at least one per cent of the GDP to achieve universal sanitation and an adequate proportion of this on operation and maintenance of existing infrastructure. “To enable monitoring of this spend, include a separate budget line for sanitation within national budgets,” says the Charter.

Around 69 per cent of the people in Nepal, 66 per cent in India, 63 per cent in Afghanistan, 56 per cent in Bhutan, 52 per cent in Pakistan and 44 per cent in Bangladesh are denied access to improved sanitation, according to UNICEF/ WHO report 2012.

“Around one billion people in South Asia, out of 1.6 billion, do not use toilets and 700 million people defecate in the open,” said Mustafa Talpur, regional manager, WaterAid, an international non-governmental organisation based in the United Kingdom that works on the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people. “SAARC should politically and collectively take a call on this and donors should double their funds in the sanitation sector in this region.”

A year-long ‘Keep Your Promises’ campaign was also launched to accelerate progress on sanitation and hygiene and improve equity and sustainability, according to WaterAid. “Eliminate all forms of manual scavenging and ensure dignity and equality for the sanitation workforce,” the charter adds.

India was represented by Danasari Anasuya, MLA from Andhra Pradesh, and Kusam Rajamouli, community leader from Gangadevipalli in Warangal, a village that has won several awards for good governance

More In: National | News