National Urban Sanitation Workshop to meet urban sanitation challenges.

Islamabad (VOM ): Over 100 representatives from national and international organizations and development partners participated in the inaugural session of National Urban Sanitation Workshop to deliberate issues related to urban sanitation. The workshop is providing an oppurtunity to the urban sanitation stakeholders to discuss solutions, share experiences and develop joint action plans for addressing Pakistan`s urban sanitation challenges. Co-hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change and UNICEF, with support from the Islamic Development Bank, the workshop is a first step in promoting south-south cooperation to meet urban sanitation challenges.

The workshop has brought together IsDB member countries with relevant experience in urban sanitation to mutually learn and share it with Pakistan’s urban sanitation stakeholders. Water and Sanitation Service providers from major cities of Pakistan, Provincial Planning & Development, Public Health Engineering and Local Government Department’s representatives are participating in the workshop. Other participants include representatives from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, JICA, KOICA, AfD, UNHABITAT, Unilever, Private sector operators of FSM, NUST, UET Peshawar, WAP, AHKT and AHKF. Federal Government participants are from the Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan Environment Protection Authority, Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Participants will discuss the key challenges facing urban sanitation systems in Pakistan and mutually share their view point to formulate recommendations for addressing the challenges.

Based on these recommendations, action planning by each stakeholder is envisaged on last day of workshop, followed by a site visit to decentralized solid and liquid waste management facilities in Islamabad. This workshop is the first phase of two, and after this workshop, the second phase will focus on discussions on project identification and a more detailed analysis of financing and investment mechanisms, and detailed mapping of potential donors, innovative financing opportunities and the potential for public-private collaboration in urban sanitation sector of Pakistan.

Pakistan made significant sanitation progress in the last decade reducing open defecation from 36% in 2010 to 7 % in 2020. In urban areas, basic sanitation coverage is 82 per cent, however data on safely managed sanitation is not available. Effluent from most sanitation facilities in both rural and urban areas is discharged into the environment without proper treatment or into dysfunctional wastewater treatment plants. Lack of safely managed sanitation systems in the country has led to contamination of most drinking water sources. Despite 92.6 per cent of people having access to improved water sources, only 36 per cent of households have access to safely managed water i.e., free from fecal contamination.

In the keynote presentation by Mr. Nasir Javed, Sector Specialist, he highlighted that “Approximately one child dies every 10 minutes due to poor sanitation. The cost of poor sanitation is a loss of 3.96% of Pakistan’s GDB, which is approximately 5.7 billion US Dollars”.

The sanitation situation in Pakistan is exacerbated by the recent floods which destroyed water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities with an estimated cost of around USD 182 million. Over 5.4 million people (16%) from the 33 million people in flood affected 84 districts moved from use of protected to unprotected drinking water sources, 6.3 million people (19%) lost household sanitation with an estimated 950,000 household latrines.

In her welcome remarks, Ms. Sana Rusool, Director Environment, Ministry of Climate Change said “More than 15 million people still practice open defecation in Pakistan, which is a public health crisis.”. She further added that this issue had gained much-needed impetus in the recent months due to the unprecedented and devastating floods of 2022, which is why this workshop was a very crucial step in bringing together all key stakeholders to discuss and deliberate upon urban sanitation, its challenges and opportunities.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Inoussa Kabore, deputy Representative UNICEF Pakistan, highlighted that urban sanitation is at the center of UNICEF’s WASH programming in its next country program. “As part of the overall UN cooperation framework with the government of Pakistan, UNICEF leads the social services pillar and access to sanitation is one of the priorities. I therefore want to reiterate our commitment and support to government as it seeks to accelerate provision of safely managed, equitable and climate-resilient water, sanitation and hygiene services targeting the vulnerable and marginalized, children and women” he said.,

Mr. Hammad Hundal-OIC- IsDB Regional Hub Turkiye, said in his opening remarks that the Islamic Development Bank was committed to supporting its member countries to achieve their national SDG targets. “IsBD has allocated USD 8 billion so far for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene sector. We seek to expand our collaborations in Pakistan for boosting recovery, tackling poverty, and building resilience, and driving green economic growth as per IsDB’s strategy. I foresee this workshop would be a stepping stone to discussing and planning actions for addressing urban sanitation challenges in Pakistan”.,
In her inaugural address, Dr. Saima Shafique, Director MoCC on behalf of the ministry, said that “the importance of clean water and sanitation for human development cannot be denied, as it reduces income poverty and child mortality, breaks life-cycle disadvantages and enhances female education”. She further expressed her hope that partners like UNICEF and Islamic Development Bank will bring more technical expertise and financing in urban sanitation sector to resolve some of the issues that the workshop aimed to discuss over the next two days. She concluded her address with the commitment that the ministry will work closely with the provincial governments, public and private operators, and create the enabling environment so that the development sector and private sector partners, along with civil society, academia and other stakeholders can contribute to their optimum potential.