Leh–Aiming to save rivers and the water streams from pollution due to absence of sewerage system, Union Ministers Harshvardhan and Narendra Singh Tomar along with over 25 religious heads belonging to different religions on Monday pledged to change the mindset and practices of the local people through social and behavioural change.
The pledge, taken under the initiative called Water and Sanitation Campaign (WASH) launched by the UNICEF, calls upon the religious leaders to comprehensively take part in convincing the public to prioritise proper sanitation and hygiene practices.
According to the official data, 42.6 per cent of the households in Jammu and Kashmir practice open defecation and just 33.9 per cent of the households have improved sanitation facilities.
Only 9.47 per cent of people have access to tap water from a treated source in the Ladakh region and 81 per cent of the households have no drainage connectivity for waste water outlet.
“Today the situation is such that even if any political leader or administrator tries to convince people they do not listen to them, it is only the religious leaders whose words the public follow thoroughly. People have an acceptance towards the religious leaders,” said Union Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister Tomar.
Among the religious leaders present during the event organised under the banner of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) were Buddhist monk Lama Lobsang, Swami Chidanand Saraswati of Paramarth Niketan and several other top Muslim and Sikh leaders.
Stating that a lot of objectives under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s key campaign ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ are unfulfilled, Tomar said: “Leh still has over 2,400 families who need to build proper toilets to make it Open Defecation Free. It is true that Leh has the problem of drinking water. There needs to be an individual effort.”
Much of Ladakh is situated at over 3,000 m with no terrain and high dependence on the Indus river. Without rainfall, it has mostly relied on the melting glaciers to replenish its streams, however, climate change is causing scarcity of water.
Poor availability of water for sanitation has resulted in the use of dry toilets and local eco-solution including the usage of compost pits.
Minister for Science and Technology Harshvardhan said: “Only India is the country where over 2 crore toilets have been made under the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has been monitoring it in the Cabinet meetings.”
Swami Chidanand Saraswati, who is also the co-founder of GIWA called for the children of Leh to be the agent of change and promote proper sanitation and hygiene.
“This platform is where all the religious leaders in spite of difference have come together to obtain the objective of sanitation and hygiene. We will certainly obtain it in the the decided time,” he said.
WASH was launched in Leh on Sept 25, 2015, two years after it was initiated at the United Nations General Assembly.