US Ambassador to India Richard Verma said his country is committed to extending its support in initiatives for clean water and sanitation and to help realise India’s call in this regard. He lauded Sulabh International for its initiative in improving sanitation in the country and said the low-cost toilet technology should be replicated across the globe.
“It is impressive to know how ordinary lives can be transformed by improving sanitation technology. I learnt that it doesn’t take a lot of money or most-advanced technology but a commitment from the people to change the way they do things, and for their government and leaders to focus on it”, he said during his visit to Sulabh, an NGO working in the sanitation sector. “It is important that the low-cost toilet technology is replicated across the globe. We are committed to extend our support in initiatives for clean water and sanitation and to help realise India’s call. We look forward to working with you”, he added.
Recalling a childhood memory, Verma said, “My parents immigrated to the US from Jalandhar in Punjab. I was able to go back to the house my grandmother lived. In 1974 I was there as a boy and there were no flush toilets in their house. When I visited it years later, I knew exactly what a challenge it would have been and I also know things have changed dramatically for the better but there is a long way to go and lot of progress needs to be made. “We are happy to be partner in this effort through our alliance WASH and support Prime Minister and all other leaders in India who want to see lives of ordinary people improving”, he added.
During PM Narendra Modi’s visit to US last year, President Barack Obama had offered his support to the “Clean India” campaign. The US government had offered to help India develop three “smart cities”, offer assistance with developing infrastructure and collaborate to provide clean water and improved sanitation in 500 urban centres. It had also partnered in the Clean India campaign alongside Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Alliance (WASH).
Verma visited the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation in New Delhi and met social activist Bindeshwar Pathak, who has spearheaded the Sulabh sanitation movement and earned several national and international awards for his pioneering efforts in the country. The US Ambassador met rehabilitated manual scavenger women from Rajasthan and several widows who had come in New Delhi from Vrindavan. He also paid a visit to the toilet museum and tried his hand at Sulabh’s ‘Water ATM’ and bio-gas plant that runs on by-products from Sulabh toilets.
“This mission has been going on for 47 years. I have seen extreme cases of manual scavenging and people being treated as untouchables as also issues faced by women due to lack of sanitation facilities and realised that technological innovation was the key to solving such problems”, Pathak said. Sulabh, which engages over 50,000 people, has constructed nearly 1.3 million household toilets and 54 million government -funded ones, with nearly 15 million people using toilets based on the Sulabh design.
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