Kathmandu: South Asia, where 65 per cent of the world`s population still defecate openly, will be declared open defecation free region by 2023, a regional conference on sanitation announced here on Thursday.
The fifth South Asia Conference on Sanitation (SACOSAN) which saw participation by some 400 delegates from all eight South Asian nations, unanimously adopted a 10-point Kathmandu Declaration to progressively move towards sustainable environmental sanitation.
The proportion of people who practice open defecation had dropped by 27 per cent over the period of 21 years (1990 and 2011), a faster rate of reduction than in most other regions, observed Bharatsinh Solanki, Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation, India.
He, however, pointed out that still 65 per cent of world`s open defectors belong to South Asia with 111 million more people not having access to improved sanitation in the South Asia region in 2011, than in 1990.
The declaration stresses on an enabling environment including policies, strategies and protocols and the condition for the fulfillment of the need for universal sanitation and hygiene.
The declaration also stresses on raising awareness at all levels to foster demand and to build capacity for sanitation and hygiene, forge pro-poor public private partnerships, and develop and implement guidelines and standards suitable for child, adolescent and gender as well as disabled friendly wash facilities.
The three day conference which concluded today also called the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to support the SACOSAN process by adopting the SAARC Regional action Framework for sanitation to address the challenge of sanitation and hygiene in the region.
The conference also welcomed the offer made by Sri Lanka to host the SACOSAN Secretariat and act as a resource, knowledge and learning centre on sanitation and hygiene facilitating coordination, regional and cross regional exchange and sharing with other regional sanitation bodies.
The head of the Government of Nepal, Khil Raj Regmi expressed Nepal`s commitment to "achieve universal access to drinking water and sanitation by 2017."