Sanitation is humanity’s and the world’s most urgent and critical crisis of our times,” Pathak said and added: “However, it is not, yet, an unsolvable crisis but a huge challenge. It will require massive, dedicated and selfless labour to achieve the goal.”
Pathak received the award Thursday from H.R.H. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden.
The Stockholm Water Prize, which was first presented in 1991, includes a $150,000 award and a crystal sculpture. It honours individuals, institutions or organisations whose work contributes broadly to the conservation and protection of water resources and improves the health of the planet’s inhabitants and ecosystems.
“The correlation between sanitation and disease is dramatic and unmistakable,” said Anders Berntell, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
“Yet, at the current rate of progress, we are going to miss the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation by more than 700 million people, leaving still 2.4 billion people without adequate sanitation by 2015, about the same number as today. By any standard, this is unacceptable. We need the political will to translate our intentions into meaningful action.”
In seminars, workshops, and side events during the week, participants have explored the causes, health impacts and possible solutions to inadequate sanitation that currently affects more than 2.6 billion people across the planet, kills over 5,000 children daily, and causes the illnesses that fill half of the hospital beds in the developing world. The topics include manual scavenging, sanitation for the urban poor, financing of sanitation, and the effects that climate change could have on sanitation, among many other subjects.
“The sanitation problem has a complex solution,” Jon Lane, executive director of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), said. “If it was easy it would have been done by now. It needs a systemic intervention. This involves politicians, educators, entrepreneurs, technologists, financiers and philanthropists. Each has a particular role to play.”
Inadequate sanitation and its devastating effects on the world’s poor comprise humanity’s most urgent, yet solvable crisis, according to international leaders and experts convening at the 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm.
The founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, Pathak is known around the world for his wide-ranging work in the sanitation field. He has worked to improve public health, has advanced social progress, and has improved human rights in his home nation and other countries.
His accomplishments span the fields of sanitation technology, social enterprise, and health care education for millions of people, serving as a model for NGOs and public health initiatives around the world.
“If water is honoured by the prize being named after it, the importance of sanitation, its sibling, cannot be left far behind,” Pathak said in his acceptance speech. “The two complement rather than compete with each other. Provision of sanitation provides dignity and safety, especially to women, and reduction of child mortality. As a matter of fact, safe water and sanitation go hand in hand for improvement of community health.”
Jan Eliasson, a Swedish official and chair of WaterAid Sweden, said: “Finally we are paying due attention to this looming catastrophe. I am glad to say that Dr. Pathak is eminently and uniquely suited to take this daunting challenge in hand.”