The three-day South Asian sanitation conference, SACOSAN, begins from Monday in Dhaka. President Md Abdul Hamid will inaugurate the function to set future action plans based on past experiences on sanitation, regarded as a development challenge of the region.
Islamabad did not send its ministerial delegation in the wake of a recent diplomatic spat with Dhaka following Pakistan’s comments on Bangladesh’s war crimes trial and the withdrawal of diplomats from both sides.
“Their High Commissioner in Dhaka will represent the conference with two officials,” the conference chairperson Md Khairul Islam, a deputy secretary of the Bangladesh local government division, said at a briefing on Sunday. Focal points of all participating countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan – except Pakistan were present at the press meet in Dhaka.
“There are some problems and that’s why they are not coming (from Islamabad),” Islam said, without explaining the details. Bangladesh focal point Islam had said due to changes in its delegation, Pakistan could not turn up in the right time for visas.
Activists, however, believe this will hamper the conference process. The conference chairperson Islam, however, did not see any threat. “I don’t think there is any threat for the next conference,” he said, when asked.
This is “unfortunate”, Regional Convener of the Fresh Water Action Network South Asia Ramsety Murali said on Pakistan’s failure to attend the conference. “This is a perfect example of how inter-country sensitivities are affecting the development activities of the region,” he said.
His Indian counterpart seconded his comment at the press briefing. “In no way will this (Pakistan’s absence) affect the sanitation issue”, G Balasubramanian, deputy adviser of Swachh Bharat Mission under Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, said. He also said that Pakistan had confirmed a 60-member delegation before.
This conference, with the theme “better sanitation better life”, comes just after the beginning of the new Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) era on Jan 1. Balasubramanian said the conference had a positive impact on the South Asian countries. He said the movement generated from the conference helped India increased its sanitation coverage.
International NGO WaterAid estimates that each $1 spent on sanitation can return $4 to a country, apart from reducing unwanted deaths due to diarrhoea and respiratory infections, according to bdnews24.com. -Mithun