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Increase allocation for rural sanitation, water demanded

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Staff Reporter Development activists and researchers at a workshop in Dhaka on Tuesday demanded increased allocation for improving sanitation and water supply situation in the country’s rural areas. They said although 70 percent of the country’s population live in rural areas, only 30 percent of total allocation is made to address sanitation problems in rural areas against 70 percent of urban areas -- Dhaka Wasa, Chittagong Wasa and Khulna Wasa. WaterAid, Development Organization for Rural Poor (DROP) and Simavi jointly organized the workshop titled, ‘Local Government Budget: Allocation in Water, Sanitation and Health Policy Sector, and Expectation’ at Cirdap auditorium in the capital. Chaired by WaterAid Bangladesh country representative Dr Khairul Islam, the workshop was addressed, among others, by State Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Mashiur Rahman Ranga, Additional Secretary of Local Government Division Zuena Aziz and chief engineer of Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) Khaleda Ahsan. The speakers said budgetary allocation to meet water and sanitation demand in urban areas has increased significantly in the last couple of years, but rural areas get much lower allocation to address water and sanitation problems. In current fiscal (2014-15), an amount of Tk 1,580 crore was allocated for Dhaka Wasa while Tk 765 crore for Chittagong Wasa and Tk 524 crore for Khulna Wasa. Dr Khairul Islam said there is a huge inequality in budgetary allocations on water and sanitation between urban and rural areas although 70 percent of country’s people are living in rural areas. “Coastal and hilly regions also get poor allocations to improve water and sanitation situation. Allocations must be made on the basis on equity,” he added. Khairul said the government demands that the country’s 97 percent people have already been brought under sanitation coverage, but the reality is that 18-20 percent of latrines are still unimproved, which need to be improved to ensure sanitation facility for people. Zuena Aziz said although a marked progress has already been achieved in water and sanitation sector, some problems remain there in the sector as there is no adequate budgetary allocation.