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, Minister Rauff Hakeem said today.
The City Planning and Water Supply minister told reporters in Colombo that Sri Lanka will host a three-day South Asian meeting from Monday to review progress in improving access to proper sanitation in member countries.
“Sanitation has become the most challenging social service priority in the South Asian region,” the minister said adding, however, that Sri Lank was way ahead of others in toilet use.
Some 98.5 percent of Sri Lankans have access to proper toilets while “open defecation” has dropped to about 1.0 percent compared to 14 percent 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, officials said.
UNICEF statistics show that only one in two Indians used a toilet underscoring the challenge faced by the Indian government.
Minister Hakeem said Sri Lanka will host the secretariat for the South Asian Regional centre for Sanitation and it will shortly be established in Kandy.
He said 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 launched an initiative in Sri Lanka to improve hygiene among children in South Asia.
The Indian superstar showed local children at the Taj Samudra in Colombo how to use soap and water to wash their hands before meals and avoid the risk of disease.