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Tuesday, July 12, 2011 7:25:21 PM (IST)  

New ministry to improve access to drinking water, sanitation

New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) Lagging behind in some of its targets relating to rural drinking water and sanitation, the government Tuesday created a new ministry to improve access of people to potable water and toilets.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday appointed Gurudas Kamat as the Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the newly created Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry.

However, sources said Kamat was not satisfied with the work assigned to him. He could not be reached for comments.

Drinking Water and Sanitation was earlier a department in the Ministry of Rural Development.

The creation of new ministry has come in the backdrop of the government falling behind its target to achieve total rural sanitation.

Rural Development officials said that rural sanitation coverage was 27.35 percent in 2004 and had gone up to 70.37 percent in 2010-11.

They said that though the country had set itself the goal of 100 percent rural coverage by 2012, the target may not be achieved as some states were lagging behind.

India's first nationwide programme of rural sanitation, the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) was launched in 1986. Another programme Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) was launched in 1999 with the aim of ending open defacation.

Rural drinking water is one of the six components of Bharat Nirman, a major initiative of the government to build rural infrastructure since 2005. The programme aims to cover rural habitations not having drinking water facilities and addressing problems related to water quality such as contamination of arsenic, flouride and iron. There is problem of water availability and quality in country's urban areas also.

The Habitation Survey 2003 carried out by states said that the 6.37 lakh habitations in the country had drinking water problems.

Non government organisations working in the water and sanitation sectors expressed happiness over government's decision Tuesday to create a new ministry.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, said that it was an "appreciable decision." "It will give the kind of importance needed to accelerate work on sanitation," Pathak told IANS.

He said government had also taken some other measures relating to subsidy and loand related to construction of toilets. "The work will progress in the right direction," he said.

Vimlendu Jha of Swechha said that the agenda of the new ministry and the minister was yet to be seen.

"The issue of access of water is vital. It remains to be seen if such moves will lead to commodification of water," he said.

NGOs said that creation of new ministries will also lead to better flow of funds for drinking water and sanitation.

Official sources said that the decision to create a separate ministry of drinking water and sanitation follows suggestion of Planning Commission

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