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November 28, 2019

Water, sanitation experts laud Pakistan initiatives on WASH

Islamabad

November 28, 2019

Islamabad : Pakistan’s strong political will to address water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues is visible. All it requires is right infrastructure, better governance capacity and effective investment.

The views were expressed by Chief Executive for WaterAid Tim Wainwright and Tim Clark, Chairman Board of Trustees WaterAid while talking to The News. WaterAid is a UK based INGO working globally in WASH sector and has several projects in the country including partnership with the government in the Clean Green School Programme (CGSP) and Clean Green Pakistan Index. Tim Wainwright and Tim Clark are visiting Pakistan to launch several initiatives with the government. Most prominent among those is the launch of Clean Green Pakistan Index, country's first ever barometer to measure green character and cleanliness of cities.

Talking to The News, Tim Wainwright said that usually WASH loses out to more visible infrastructure like roads and power. He gave examples of countries where there are shinny highways passing small towns but women walk for kilometres to fetch water. “However we see the realisation at the political level in Pakistan,” he said. He expressed hope that social media would bring the real change as it is bringing communities together and putting right pressure on the governments.

Talking about the barriers faced by WASH initiatives around the world, he said that there are two big shifts making it difficult to manage WASH governance including climate change and urbanisation. “Climate change is making everything more extreme and people without water and sanitation are at greater risk.” He said that extension of urban centres is usually unplanned and arteries are not put down for water and sanitation thus instead of improved facilities, such populations end up with poor access to WASH.

He praised the political will and framing of WASH by the Government of Pakistan which includes a lot of words for behaviour change. “India, on the other hand, is more infrastructure focused,” he said while suggesting the government to make WASH a priority in the budget. “The government’s interest, governance and investment attract foreign investment and donors to invest in the same sector.”

Tim also advised the government to go for the sustainable solutions. “People may want this to be done quickly but lasting solutions take time. It is good to put pressure but putting too much pressure for quick solution can sometimes result in compromise on quality.”

In his remarks, Tim Clark, Chairman Board of Trustees WaterAid, said that with sixth largest population and strong political will, Pakistan is the one of the priority countries for WaterAid. He said that increasing population and urbanisation Pakistan is prone to natural disasters too.

“There is a need to develop awareness and bring local communities on board too in WASH related projects. Unless community is engaged and actually prepared to commit to looking after the facilities, no project can be sustainable,” said Clark adding that clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene are basic human rights.

Both were of the opinion that Pakistan is a very important country in the world in this sector. “If Pakistan makes progress, it is good for Pakistan but it is good for all the other countries too” they said.

As a result of rapid urbanisation and traditionally lack of adequate investments in infrastructure in water and sanitation facilities around 79 million people lack decent toilets in Pakistan and more than 53,000 children under the age of five years die each year from diarrhea.

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