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Budget for sanitation, water reduced by Tk 1000 crore

Staff Correspondent

The government has reduced its allocation for the water and sanitation sector by around Tk 1000 crore in the proposed 2012-13 budget, widening the disparity between the rich and poor, with the major portion of funds going to Dhaka and Chittagong.
According to experts speaking at a press conference in the city, the reduced allocation would leave the country at risk of not ensuring safe water and sanitation for all by 2015 as set out by the UN millennium development goals.  
‘It will be a challenge for the government to achieve MDG without ensuring safe drinking water and sanitation for all,’ country representative of WaterAid in Bangladesh, said Md Khairul Islam.
He argued that the government should raise water and sanitation allocation and to bridge the disparity between urban and rural people.
Economist Abul Barkat, chief researcher at the Human Development Research Centre, said that the government had proposed to allocate Tk 2625 crore in the budget for the next fiscal year while the allocation in the outgoing fiscal was Tk 3684 crore. The allocation was 29 per cent less than last year’s budget, although the total outlay had been increased by around Tk 30,000 crore, he added.
Barkat said the implementation of the pledges committed by the government at the summit on ‘Sanitation and Water For All,’ held on April 20 this year in Washington DC, would be in question because of the cut in allocation in the proposed budget.
‘The distribution of allocations in the current development budget is heavily urban biased, with 90 per cent going to urban areas and 10 per cent to rural. Moreover, 52 per cent is allocated in favour of Dhaka and Chittagong cities, which would further widen the disparity between the rich and the poor,’ he said in replied to a query.
Khairul Islam said that without safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and improved sanitation and hygiene, progress towards other development goals, which included improved healthcare, poverty reduction and increased elementary school attendance rates, would be far more difficult.
He believed a comprehensive plan was needed to make the country arsenic free, giving priority to marginalised people living in hard-to-reach areas.  
Both Khairul and Barkat criticised the finance minister, AMA Muhith’s claim in the budget speech on June 7 that about 91 per cent of Bangladeshi families have apparently come under sanitation coverage, which was, Muhith stated, the highest among SAARC countries.
The experts said the real picture would not be more than 60 per cent, while Sri Lanka has achieved 92 per cent in terms of improved sanitation.
Bangladesh had earlier set the target to ensure 100 sanitation by 2013 and safe water for all by 2011.
According to government statistics however, around 88 per cent of the population have come under the safe drinking water coverage.

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