Water, environment and sanitation

Water, Environment and Sanitation

 

Sanitation is serious business

© UNICEF/ 2008
Minister for Rural Development, Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh lights the inaugural lamp

International Learning Exchange 2008 – Sanitation lessons from India

New Delhi, 14 October, 2008: The International Learning Exchange 2008 (ILE) started with a “handwash” on October 14. UNICEF’s India Representative, Karin Hulshof, washed her hands on the podium using soap and water to underline the importance of the Global Handwashing Day as she welcomed delegates from various developing countries across Africa and Asia who were in Delhi to attend the inaugural session of the ILE.

The ILE is a programme jointly sponsored by the Government of India and UNICEF to provide a platform for learning for practitioners in the water and sanitation sector. During the 10-day programme, which is now in its third year, the delegates travel to a cross-section of Indian villages to gain an insight into the country’s sanitation programme which has successfully accelerated over the past five years using a combination of response and community-driven approaches.

The ILE is a programme jointly sponsored by the Government of India and UNICEF to provide a platform for learning for practitioners in the water and sanitation sector. During the 10-day programme, which is now in its third year, the delegates travel to a cross-section of Indian villages to gain an insight into the country’s sanitation programme which has successfully accelerated over the past five years using a combination of response and community-driven approaches.

The delegates to the ILE 2008 included large teams from Afghanistan, Vietnam and Angola along with participants from Central African Republic, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Nigeria, Philippines, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A total of 53 delegates from 12 countries are participating in the ILE 2008.

Most of the participants are from countries where sanitation programmes are in their nascent stages and at an interactive session, several participants said a lesson they were seeking from India was how to get political support for their programmes.

A key element in India’s rapid progress in the sector has been the support of the political establishment. India’s federal Minister for Rural Development, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, has been leading from the front and holds up sanitation as one of his department’s urgent development priorities.

In his inaugural address, Dr. Singh told delegates that India’s biggest achievement was service delivery at the grassroots. This, he said, had been achieved by changing track from a subsidy-oriented, supply-driven mode to a demand-driven one where the beneficiary was a participant.

There was greater emphasis on communication activities and a focus on school sanitation and hygiene to bring about attitudinal and behavioural change of a more permanent nature. Sanitation and toilets has never been a popular subject for discussion, and the highest political offices were targeted – that of chief ministers, members of parliament, and politicians at all levels for promoting sanitation.

© UNICEF/ 2008
53 participants from 12 countries participate at the ILE meeting

Dr. Singh said that the Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) or Clean Village Award scheme had played a particularly important role by encouraging a sense of pride by the public recognition of the achievement of zero open defecation clean villages. The NGP award is presented by India’s President who holds the highest office in the country.

India expects to achieve full sanitation coverage by the year 2012, even though almost 40% of the rural population still do not have toilets. Scaling up has been a priority and a total of 3.0 billion US dollars have been earmarked for the programme.

The minister stressed that India expects to achieve full sanitation coverage by the year 2012, even though almost 40% of the rural population still do not have toilets. Scaling up has been a priority and a total of 3.0 billion US dollars have been earmarked for the programme.

“The rapid progress in the sector driven by communities and government and continuous innovation has shown that there is no limit to what can be achieved,” Ms. Hulshof said in her welcome address. India’s was one of the largest efforts in the sanitation sector and there was a great opportunity to learn from its experiences.

2008 is the International Year of Sanitation and the three modules this year focus on acceleration of rural sanitation, household sanitation and school sanitation.

The delegates divided into groups according to their chosen modules at the end of the day and set off for their field visits. They would each be travelling to two states. The states to be visited are Gujarat and Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand and Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The ILE delegates will be back in Delhi on October 22 to share their learning. “Leave India with exciting innovations to share with colleagues back home; in India we will benefit greatly from your feedback,” Hulshof said.

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