GUWAHATI, March 21 � A two-day NE regional level workshop on right to water and sanitation, which ended here today, called for legalising the right to water and sanitation as the inalienable right of the country�s people.
The workshop, organised jointly by the Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India (Forum), Aaranyak and WaterAid India, called for formalizing the right to basic water needs through constitutional amendment that explicitly incorporates right to water.
It called for treating drinking and cooking water as the lifeline water, besides steps to recognise the water required for washing, hygiene, sanitation, livestock etc., as lifeline plus water or water for essential uses over and above lifeline water.
These two categories of water should be treated as part of the right to water, it said.
Stating that sanitation is closely linked to human dignity, K Joy of the Forum opined in his presentation that sanitation is the basic determinant towards the maintenance of individual and community health, quality of life and development.
While inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease, improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in households and across communities.
World Bank estimates that India loses around US $ 53.8 billion every year due to increased health costs, loss of productivity, and reduced tourism revenue � all because of inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, said Joy.
He also maintained that around 57 per cent� that is, 626 billion � of the 1.1 billion people in the world, who practice open defecation, are found in India.
India�s national level of sanitation coverage is 46.9 per cent, while the rural sanitation coverage in the country is 30.7 per cent. Of the rural Dalits sanitation coverage is extended to 23 per cent, while among the rural tribals sanitation coverage is extended to only 16 per cent, he said.
Moreover, out of the six million villages in the country, only 25,000 are said to be free from the practice of open defecation, he said, adding, of these at least 20 per cent are not totally free from open defecation.