The Two Approaches that cannot lead to Right to Sanitation


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The Two Approaches that cannot lead to Right to Sanitation

The Two Approaches that cannot lead to Right to Sanitation

Poor developing countries face enormous problems of inadequate and poor sanitation. At the same time, the developing countries have yet to recognize the right of citizens to sanitation. Right to sanitation has now been recognized by the United Nations.

Despite some modest progress on the sanitation front, worldwide 2.4 billion are without adequate sanitation. Most countries could not achieve satisfactory progress on sanitation in Millennium Development Goals. And now the world has Sustainable Development Goals.

Prof. Rosalind Malcolm, Professor of Law, and Director of Environmental Regulatory Research Group, at University of Surrey, UK talks of two sanitation approaches that she came across in Uganda and Kenya.

In Kampala, Uganda, she saw a field piled high with faeces where bare-footed children guided her around. This field was where the slum-dwellers went at night when the toilets were locked. The leader of the community took her to see the toilet block built by an NGO. Sheets of toilet paper were for sale and there were padlocks on the toilets. One had to pay the leader to gain access. In Kisumu, Kenya, in the informal settlement, she visited a pig wallowed in the mud outside the latrine.

Prof. Rosalind talks of hardships in establishing a human right to sanitation, based on her visit to these two countries. Kenya’s constitution contain the right, while Uganda’s constitution does not.

She says: “Both countries recognize the right in different ways, yet large numbers of citizens do not enjoy it in practice. This is a particular problem for informal settlements in poor cities. In Kisumu, 86% of the community share inadequate latrines – or none at all, according to University of Surrey research.”

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Prof. Rosalind suggests four ways for achieving right to sanitation. These are:

First, it should be incorporated into constitutions. This is an important step showing that the state formally accepts its obligations and helps drive changes in national legislation requiring regulatory agencies to improve access to toilets. Citizens can then demand their rights.

Second, municipal legislation should include planning laws and building regulations that enable the provision of toilets at acceptable standards.

Third, there should be changes to the law that enable land to be acquired compulsorily as a last option to provide sites for toilets.

Fourth, and perhaps most important alongside government commitment, people need to be trained to manage the toilet facilities that are provided.

Prof. Rosalind concludes – to which I fully agree – “Ultimately, the law is only going to be useful if there is political commitment towards making the provision happen. If the establishment of an international human right to sanitation drives political will, all good. However, action will always speak louder than law, and such laws are not worth the paper they are written on without a change in regulation, funding and attitude.”

F H Mughal
F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan

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