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Meeting debates Mekong sanitation   2009-04-21 - VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Ways to improve water quality and sanitation for 1.8 million poor people living across three countries are being discussed at a three-day conference in the city.

Officials check water quality in Dong Thap Muoi Eco-reserve in the Mekong Delta’s Tien Giang Province.

The conference of the Mekong Region Water and Sanitation Initiative (MEK-WATSAN) started yesterday.

The initiative, with a likely budget of US$41 million, aimed to halve the proportion of people in Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam without access to quality water and sanitation services by 2015, said Andre Dzikus, the chief of the Water and Sanitation Section II of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

Conference delegates want to finalise regional programmes for training, analysis, sanitation and hygiene education along with cost estimates so the initiative can achieve the best possible results for at least eight more towns in the countries.

MEK-WATSAN promotes pro-poor urban water governance, urban water conservation and demand management; integrated urban environmental sanitation and income generation for the urban poor through community-based water and sanitation services.

Secondary urban towns in the Mekong region are the target of the initiative. While some progress had been made, a substantial percentage of the people in the peri-urban and secondary urban settlements and rural areas were left without improved water and sanitation, said the United Nations Resident Co-ordinator, John Hendra.

In Viet Nam, the national coverage for water and sanitation was 70 and 30 per cent respectively, but coverage for secondary towns remained at a third for water and only a tenth for sanitation, noted Hendra.

Some water and sanitation projects under the initiative have been fast tracked in 17 secondary towns in the Mekong region. Investments of more than $3 million have provided safe piped water and sanitation facilities and improved the standards of water utility staff and through public awareness campaigns, water conservation and demand management skills.

In Viet Nam, the fast-tracking of projects in Quang Tri Province’s Lao Bao and Dong Ha towns improves water quality and sanitation for 40,000. The projects use poverty mapping and an initial environment examination to ensure the best service is implemented.

Community-based water supply and sanitation projects involving nearly 300,000 people are under way in five towns, including Khanh Hoa Province’s Cam Ranh Town, Ninh Thuan Province’s Thap Cham and Ca Na towns, and Phu Yen Province’s Song Cau and Tuy Hoa towns.

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