Wednesday, March 30, 2011
How to achieve better sanitation in Sri Lanka?
2.6 billion People worldwide still do not have access to proper toilet facilities. 1.2 billion People continue open defecation. About 737 million people in the South Asia region still practice open defecation. In Sri Lanka approximately 200,000 people still practice open defecation. In Sri Lanka hundreds of schools do not have proper and adequate toilets including the western province. It was reported that 17 schools in the North Central province doesn’t have a single toilet. Girl students and female teachers especially suffer from this situation. In most cities, public places such as railway stations, bus stands, long distant bus stops have very dirty toilets. Many toilets build in the dry zone are not in operation due to lack of water. They have converted the toilets into an animal shelter. Most plantation workers and families share only one or two toilets for many lines houses. More shockingly, number of tsunami settlements has over flowing toilet pits due to the bad design. Many public toilets release excreta into the lagoons, canal and rivers. These are just few issues highlighted during the preparation of the public perspectives study conducted by the Centre for Environmental Justice in the last few months. The United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aims at achieving a 50% reduction in the number of people without “proper sanitation by 2015”. Further, the year 2008 was declared the ‘International Year of Sanitation’ by the UN General Assembly in 2006 because progress by governments to achieve the MDG goals was so slow. South Asian Conference on Sanitation is an initiative to mobilize achieving MDGs and monitoring its progress. The Fourth South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) IV will be held in 4-7th April 2011. The previous SACOSAN conferences we held in Islamabad, Dhaka and Delhi in 2003, 2006 and 2008 respectively. Third SACOSAN produced the Delhi Declaration and the Road Map to achieve its targets. One of the main objectives of the Road Map was to enable countries to identify gaps and issues, and record the lessons learnt from past experiences. The ROAD MAP identified five factors that each country needs to plan and fulfill to achieve the MDG targets for sanitation by 2015. These are (i) country commitment, (ii) enabling policies, (iii) effective and accountable institutions, (iv) financing and (v) monitoring and sustaining change”. It is expected that participating countries will prepare and share information and knowledge based on these during SACOSAN IV and work towards strategies for the future. Civil Society also plays key role in achieving sanitation target. According to the survey conducted by CEJ approximately 58% of the toilets have been directly provided by the CSOs in Sri Lanka. They engage in onsite sanitations in the rural and Estate sector. They promote eco sanitation and school sanitation too. CSOs play a major role in organizing SACOSAN IV. In planning for this event WaterAid, Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA) and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) has embarked upon a programme to carry out research in South Asian countries through partner CSOs and synthesize the results to develop a “Peoples’ Perspective” for the region. The research aims at collecting information at the grass roots on people’s ideas and views on how to achieve better sanitation, the success and/or failure of sanitation projects, who will be involved in it and what is the course of action for implementation. It is in the light of this background that the Sri Lanka report has been prepared. As a result of the survey conducted by the Centre for Environmental Justice it was found many obstacles for achieving sanitation targets in Sri Lanka. The following are the recommendations made based on the same. Carryout awareness and education programmes on sanitation and hygiene: Awareness and education programmes on sanitation needs to be carried out along with the implementation of sanitation projects for (i) schools, (ii) estate communities, (iii) household affected by Tsunami and (iv) other beneficiaries of such projects. These programmes should cover a number of aspects including the following: • The correct use of a toilet • The manner and methods of disposing of sanitary towels • The cultivation of good toilet habits • Health infections that can be caused by the use of unclean toilets • Health problems that can arise due to non-urination and/or defecation for long periods • The proper maintenance and cleaning of toilets • Diseases that can be caught and spread through OD, unhygienic sanitation conditions and lack of personal cleanliness Awareness creation of the general public is also essential in relation to; • The responsibility and ethics of using public toilets • Health problems caused by the use of unclean toilets • Health problems arising from non-urination and/or defecation when required • Smoking and other undesirable practices such as graphity in public toilets Sanitation projects must be well planned and designed: To achieve greater success sanitation projects must be well planned and designed taking a number of aspects into account - such as soil and environmental conditions, availability of water and appropriate technology - prior to implementation. Ensure supervision and monitoring: Supervision and monitoring throughout the project cycle is an absolute requirement. Post project support and maintenance in terms of services, advise and funds particularly for the poor is also desirable. Obtain community participation from the beginning: Obtaining community participation from the beginning to end of a project is an absolute necessity. Further, involving the community in construction and maintenance of sanitation projects is important. Urgent attention to be given to the Estate sector: Special and urgent attention must be given to the sanitation and water requirements of the communities in the Estate sector both in terms of funding and education. The government and Estate companies should take the main responsibility in this effort. Fresh evaluation of Tsunami areas required: Re-visiting the Tsunami areas and carrying out an appraisal of the status of existing sanitation projects, and embarking on a course of action to address the problems is essential. In fact, periodic reassessment is recommended. This is particularly so as the objective of sanitation projects soon after the Tsunami were to cater to the immediate situation and not the long term sustainability of it. Drawing up and implementing a comprehensive plan for Schools: A comprehensive plan of action is required for improving the sanitation facilities and conditions in schools which either don’t have facilities or have problems with existing ones. As a practice separate toilets must be maintained for males and females in relation to both students and teachers. The government should take a lead role with the support of parents, teachers, student and past pupils. CSOs can also play a vital role as was the case in the Southern Province where all school toilets in the sample were built by them. Make an assessment and action plan for areas which have no sanitation facilities: An assessment should be made of areas which don’t have sanitation facilities at all and those which have very poor facilities. Draw-up a plan of action and fund raising strategy to provide sanitation facilities in these areas based on the assessment. Establish transparency and accountability mechanisms for funds: Creating mechanisms for transparency and accountability in the channeling and utilization of funds for sanitation projects is required for good governance and successful projects. Nationally, it could be seen as a pre-requisite for achieving good sanitation in the country. It will lead to minimizing political interference and the wrongful use of funds by the various stakeholders and actors. Make water supply mandatory for sanitation projects: Sanitation projects must be built together with water supply projects for it to be successful. Experience shows that implementing sanitation projects without planning for the supply of water sets the stage for failure. Local Authority and Provincial Council officers and the public must supervise public toilets: In relation to public toilets built by Local Authorities and Provincial Councils both public participation and continued supervision by officers of these agencies vis-à-vis the functioning and maintenance of the system (including the supply of water and electricity) must be ensured. It is noted that the absence of this results in a host of problems including the wastage of funds. Provide individual water taps in public toilets: Providing separate water taps for each toilet will help to keep the public toilets clean. Usually people do not like to use common water tanks and buckets for washing. Placing clean disposal bins in female toilets with instructions for the disposal of sanitary towels is essential. Bins should be operable by foot as women hesitate to open the lids of bins particularly when they are unclean. This results in sanitary towels being thrown on the ground or dumped into flush toilets. Often flush toilets get blocked due to this. Government and CSOs should play a key role in the implementation of projects: It was evident in the study that the CSO’s played a major role in the provision of sanitation and water projects in all provinces. CSOs have been able to operate quite well at the ground level. Hence, it is important for the government to support and engage CSOs in this effort. The government should play a greater role in improving sanitation in the government schools. More attention can also be given to joint ventures with CSOs. Local Authorities and Provincial Councils must introduce solid waste management programmes: The Local Authorities and Provincial Councils with the assistance of CSOs must introduce solid waste management programmes in their respective areas. Solid waste can be turned into a source of income generation. People must be encouraged to separate waste at source. Separated organic waste can be composted while the paper, polythene and glass can be sold for recycling. Carryout awareness and education programmes on solid waste disposal and management: There is an urgent need to conduct awareness and education programmes (with special attention to housewives) in all locations on a number of common issues such as the following: • Composition of solid waste • Environmentally sound methods of solid waste disposal • Health impacts related to various practices of solid waste disposal • The need for waste separation • Composting, re-use and recycling • Establishment of community waste management methods • Working towards zero waste management Sanitation is not just a government business. All the citizens and every agency should pay a vital role in achieving sanitation targets. As a middle income country Sri Lanka cannot continue open defecation and maintain dirty school and public toilets. We hope SACOSA IV will open the eyes of all to achieve sanitation targets early.