Schools Lack Proper Water And Sanitation Facilities

After nearly 16 years of trying to meet the targets set out to address extreme poverty, the 193 member states of the United Nations, last year reached consensus on a more broad-reaching group of goals. Despite signing on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York, when the countries got together for the annual General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters.

Months of negotiations have produced a document: Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Despite uneven progress on the eight MDGs, the new SDGs comprise 17 goals, with 169 targets. World leaders set out in New York their visions for achieving these targets, which are hoped to provide a framework to combat poverty, climate change, inequality and hunger.

Despite Sri Lanka being ahead, in the region, in the race to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there were three key areas where it was lagging behind, a government official said.

Those vulnerable areas were the slums, plantations and schools, which needed to be attended to within the next two years, a former  parliamentarian said, adding whoever, is in power will have to play a crucial role.

Apart from the above key areas, the proportion of female members of parliament is very low and has shown a notable improvement over the past two decades. Sri Lanka’s performance with regard to this indicator is among the lowest in South Asia.

He told The Sunday Leader that the government, on the instructions of Economic Development Ministry and Ministry of Finance, had already identified the target groups and was working on providing adequate sanitation and toilet facilities to schools in particular.

Already some 1,000 schools without proper toilet facilities were identified, he said. He also said that the government was confident of providing the basic facilities to the vulnerable communities in estates and slums by this year.

“All respective stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and almost all the ministries are working hand in hand to achieve the MDGs,” he added.

He also said that the 10-year National Development Policy Statement had clearly laid down strategies on nationwide safe water and improved sanitation coverage of 94 per cent by 2015 and universal coverage by 2020.

The WaterAid Advocacy body recently called on international leaders gathered in Bali to support a call for the setting up of an ambitious target to provide access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for everyone by 2030.

The UN High Level Panel on the post 2015 development framework held its last meeting in Bali, Indonesia.  The panel is responsible for developing a new vision to guide international development efforts beyond the MDGs which expired last year.

Sri Lanka to cut down fossil fuel by 100 per cent

Plans are afoot to cut down on the country’s fossil fuel intake by 100 per cent and to replace it with non-conventional and renewable energy sources, says a senior Power and Renewable Energy Ministry official.

Speaking on Lanka’s MDG (Millennium Development Goals) Country Report, he said that 100 per cent clean energy should be each nation’s goal to cut down emissions that polluted the atmosphere and contributed to climate change.

He said that solar energy, wind energy, offshore technologies and biomass would be the key alternatives. It was also hoped to make use of gas found in the Mannar Basin for the energy sector terming it as clean energy.

The country’s wind energy potential was remarkable with 24,000MW, noting that there was a plan to supply electricity to India by 2030.

World leaders signed in 2000 the Millennium Declaration, which was followed by a set of MDGs to be achieved by September last year but sadly nothing concrete had taken place.

The eight MDGs range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education. The goals form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions to galvanise unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the worlds poorest.

The MDG Country Report 2014 released recently is the third MDG review report for Sri Lanka. It is also the first report covering the entire country, allowing comparison across the 25 districts and providing policy makers with information to help them identify and support regions lagging behind.

The report is a joint publication by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations; it was prepared by the Institute of Policy Studies. South Asia could save more than 84,000 children’s lives by meeting its 2015 sanitation target, a regional advocacy manager said.

Open defacation

Mustafa Talpur, former Regional Advocacy Manager of WaterAid, South Asia told The Sunday Leader that though Sri Lanka had an excellent record in the region, it too needed to work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

He said that most of the South Asian countries are among the 57 countries currently not on track to meet MDG sanitation target to halve the proportion of people without access to adequate sanitation.

Going by the current trends India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan are due to halve the number of people lacking sanitation services in year 2041, 2033, 2026 and 2025 respectively- These countries will be missing the MDG sanitation targets by 26, 18, 11 and 10 years.

According to the latest figures released by UNICEF and the WHO, over a billion people in South Asia do not use improved sanitation facilities and the region has the highest proportion of people still practicing open defecation, 67 per cent (690 million).

“By meeting the Millennium Development Goal target on sanitation, we can save the lives of over 84,000 children in South Asia. We need to do more to save these lives,” Talpur added. The WaterAid report also says that the lives of 2.5 million people around the world would be saved if everyone had access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

However, Central Environment Justice (CEJ) Executive Director Hemantha Withange told The Sunday Leader nothing substantial had taken place despite initiatives.  He is of the belief that nearly 200,000 people practice open defecation in Sri Lanka, which is nearly 10 per cent of the population.

He said targets here when it came to water had been accelerated, there are number of gaps.

The CEJ is in the process of conducting a study on Urban Sanitation Programme. “What we gather despite the numbers …quality lagging behind,” he added.

Vithanage expressed concern about the Central Bank statistics done during the time of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He said that he doesn’t agree with indicators of poverty level adding that the percentage is higher when it came to needy people of the country.

He said their studies indicated that hundreds of schools do not have proper and adequate toilets and this includes the Western Province. He said some 17 schools in the North Central Province don’t have a single toilet.

“Especially girl students and female teachers suffer most from this situation. In most cities, public places such as railway stations, bus-stands, long distant bus-stops have very dirty toilets.

Many toilets built in the dry zone are not in operation due to lack of water. They have converted the toilets into animal shelters. Most plantation workers and families share only one or two toilets for many line-houses. More shockingly, the number of tsunami settlements has overflowing toilet pits due to bad designing, Vithanage added.

Many public toilets release human excreta into the lagoons, canal and rivers. These are just a few issues highlighted during the preparation of the public perspectives study conducted by the CEJ.

Source: The Sunday Leader. Date: 29 May 2016