Needed, a paradigm shift: conference

Special Correspondent

From ‘flush and forget’ to recycling in the form of ‘waste to wealth’ systems

Sustained food production depends on soil fertility

National Urban Sanitation Policy is in place in India

NEW DELHI: The survival and well-being of developing nations depend largely on sustainable development and for this, sustainable water supply and sanitation are essential requirements. There is a need for a paradigm shift from ‘flush and forget’ systems to recycling in the form of ‘waste to wealth’ systems for waste management, as conventional on-site wastewater disposal systems such as pit latrines or septic tanks, carry the risk of groundwater contamination.

These issues were discussed at the ongoing Third South Asian Conference on Sanitation here. At the same time, the issue of food security was also considered where it was said that sustained food production depended on sustained soil fertility and soil-carrying capacities. With fertilizer production requiring a lot of energy and natural phosphorous reserves declining, and with soil quality not being maintained by artificial fertilizers, there is a need worldwide and in India to find solutions for these problems.

In a paper on ‘Sustaining the Sanitation Revolution,’ the Indian government also said a National Urban Sanitation Policy was approved in October 2008 that focussed on awareness generation and behavioural change on issues relating to sanitation, open defecation free cities and safe disposal of wastes including human excreta and liquid wastes from all sanitation facilities besides proper operation and maintenance of all sanitary installations.

States will be encouraged to prepare State sanitation strategies within two years and cities will be asked to prepare model city sanitation plan. A State-level apex body will monitor planning and implementation of strategies and plans.

Participants at the conference also pointed out that educational institutions, universities and technical schools could contribute to the mainstreaming of the new sanitation paradigm by fully integrating the discourse and criteria for sustainability into their curricula. Sanitation capacity building should take the stakeholders in a sanitation project not as objects, but as partners for jointly developing sustainable sanitation solutions.

In this regard, the importance of public-public partnerships was also stressed during a dialogue on Public-Public Partnerships – The New Paradigm. When it comes to public services like access to water and sanitation, it has been proved that turning to the private sector was hardly a solution. On the other hand, public-public partnerships have achieved remarkable success worldwide by forging open, democratic and dynamic relationships between State institutions and communities.

Particularly, given that the scale of water and sanitation challenge and that public sector accounts for more than 80 per cent of services, the public sector alone can achieve the millennium development goal. Public-public partnership can be a partnership between a successful public utility offering technical, financial and managerial support to the other utility; partnership between public utilities and communities, involving the community in finding solutions as equal stakeholders; and partnership of individuals and groups across public sector institutions networking for change as has occurred in India. The worldwide experience has shown that where communities have a sense of ownership of their resources, they take care of them.

Recommended for you