Inspired by the Indian government's cleanliness initiative Swachh Bharat, Sri Lanka said today it will establish a regional centre for research and development to improve access to toilets in South Asia.
Inspired by the Indian government’s cleanliness initiative Swachh Bharat, Sri Lanka said today it will establish a regional centre for research and development to improve access to toilets in South Asia. City Planning and Water Supply minister Rauff Hakeem praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “ambitious” programme and said Sri Lanka will host a three-day meeting from Monday to review progress in improving access to proper sanitation in South Asian countries. “Sanitation has become the most challenging social service priority in the South Asian region,” the minister said. Sri Lanka will establish a regional centre for research and development to improve access to toilets in South Asia which is home to over a fifth of humanity, Hakeem said. He added that the country was way ahead of others in toilet use.
Some 98.5 per cent of Sri Lankans have access to proper toilets while open defecation has dropped to about 1 per cent compared with 14 per cent a few years ago. “India has the largest number of people still defecating in the open, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched an ambitious initiative to eliminate the practice by 2019 under Swachh Bharat,” he said. He said Sri Lanka will host the secretariat for the South Asian Regional Centre for Sanitation and it will shortly be opened in Kandy.
The centre will undertake research and development and be a hub for regional excellence in toilet hygiene. Two years ago, Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar had launched an initiative in Sri Lanka to improve hygiene among children in South Asia. Launched on October 2, 2014 by Prime Minister Modi, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is India’s largest ever cleanliness drive with 3 million government employees, especially school and college students, participating in the campaign. The programme’s objectives are to reduce or eliminate open defecation through the construction of individual, cluster and community toilets. The government is aiming to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by constructing 12 million toilets in rural India at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore (USD 30 billion).