To think of ‘wash down’, ‘wash out’, and ‘wash up’ can be rather energising for the brain and lead to interesting interpretations but the WASH that I have in mind expands to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene. This is the definition I am thinking of because these are the three aces that the world needs.
There are 1,400 children dying every day in the country due to diseases linked to lack of clean water and sanitation facilities. Open defecation is just as menacing in both rural as well as urban India and is a potential health hazard for all. What we need, therefore, is a sustainable water supply, improvement in sanitation, involvement of local opinion leaders, students, and decision-makers. Intervention strategies need to be thought of and implemented fast… to develop and implement them is a priority now.
All of this is now going to become real as TERI University and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in association with Coca Cola and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) today launched the ‘Strengthening Water and Sanitation in Urban Settings’ initiative in Kolkata. The WASH programmes (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) aim to reach 50,000 beneficiaries in low-income settlements and over 300 professionals through WASH governance studies. It will also reach out to 2,500 students through 20 municipal schools across India.
Andrew Posner, Acting Consul General, US Consulate, Kolkata, informed that through the launch of this project, the aim was “to create a talented pool of professionals who can develop innovative models to support the Government of India’s urban development programs including the Swachh Bharat Mission, the Smart City Initiative and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).”
This effort that will initially benefit the slums of Kolkata and Chennai will have a positive impact on other areas as well because the WASH initiative will involve target groups as co-researchers, promote behavioural change, and upgrade researchers’ skills. This talent pool of dedicated workers will then gradually move to different locations around the country.
The official release says that the key objectives of this plan are as follows:
- To conduct a comprehensive WASH-related risk analysis of health impacts in Kolkata and Chennai.
- To develop and implement participatory intervention strategies in selected urban areas that engage all potential stakeholders and facilitate adoption of measures to reduce WASH-related risks, trigger behavioural changes, and support long-term participatory interaction among stakeholders.
- To build and catalyse capacities in faculty, students, and decision makers to help address the challenges related to sanitation and health and their engagement in action research with the intent of finding replicable solutions to the sanitation problems.
Under the WASH project, there are other key activities planned and they include a ‘Inter University Competition on Water Resources Management’ where top schools from across the country will participate. What matters most is not just success of the project in the initial launch stage but also the speed with which people around the country understand the aim and contribute meaningfully.
21 August 2015