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Published Date: Dec 18, 2020

Speakers highlight importance of water, sanitation amid pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Parliamentary Secretary Planning Kanwal Shauzabon Thursday said contaminated water was the root cause of water borne diseases.

Chairing a discussion titled: “Access to Water and Sanitation in a post COVID-19 Pakistan”, she said improved engagement of all stakeholders was required at grassroots level in order to carry out tree plantation, organic farming and wastewater disposal in a sustainable way.

She also emphasised the need for addressing water shortage during the pandemic when hand washing has become such a necessity.

A virtual panel discussion was organised by WaterAid Pakistan in collaboration with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) under the 23rdSustainable Development Conference (SDC).

Development and Reform and had panellists from World Bank, WaterAid Pakistan, SDPI and Salman Sufi Foundation.

The speakers stressed that one of the key counter Covid -19 measures includes hand wash and maintaining proper hygiene and international parameters regarding WASH covered these requirements.

Niaz Ahmed of WaterAid Pakistan said that there was a need for elevation of the financial allocation of resources for water and sanitation services, if the country wants to achieve the set targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6.

The SDG -6 is “clean water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

He said that there was a need to improve coordination between institutions working in this domain and emphasised the role of civil society in facilitating governmental initiatives in meeting the requirements of SDG-6.

“We have to consider water and sanitation as fundamental right in the Constitution of Pakistan in addition to addressing institutional, legal and policy framework related to ambiguities in this regard,” Mr Niaz Ahmed said.

He added that the government should increase financial allocation for WASH sector which is currently less than half of the requirement for meeting SDG-6 targets and for this partnership between government, private sector and development partners was more important than ever.

Basharat Saeed, Water Resources Specialist at World Bank highlighted the fact that a significant percentage of Pakistani youth was stunted due to lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities among other reasons.

He said a holistic approach was required in terms of addressing the long-neglected issue of water and sanitation.

He further added that communities and the government will have to work together to resolve the problems, however, the governmental departments need to enhance their capacity to deliver on this front.

Other speakers highlighted the importance of behaviour change towards use of water and sanitation facilities as there was limited focus on urban WASH where public toilets were perceived to be unclean and unhygienic.

Salman Sufi of Salman Sufi Foundation in his remarks briefed about his initiative of mobile public toilets in Karachi and Lahore, and said that travelling women and children were most affected by the lack of public toilets therefore decent and clean public toilets should be built across the country.