New Delhi: Japanese government aid agency JICA has increased focus on funding water and sanitation facilities in India, aligning its lending with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programme ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’.
“Funding for water (projects) has become second most priority sector after transportation in India for Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the last 10 years,” Takema Sakamoto, Chief Representative of JICA India Office, told PTI in an interview.
He said India remains the biggest open defecation country in the world but at the same time, is the second fastest growing economy. The sanitation and hygiene situation is bad and there is much room for improvement, he added.
“Water is an important sector for us because of Swachh Bharat. Our support is based on our very solid fundamental policy which says help self-effort. We need solid alignment with the Indian government policy. We are watching so many important policies under Narendra Modi’s administration and one of them is Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,” Sakamoto said.
JICA’s support to India in transport (55 per cent), water (16 per cent), energy (13 per cent), agriculture and forestry (7 per cent) and others (9 per cent) stood at Japanese Yen 2,340 billion (more than Rs 1.5 lakh crore) during 2006-07 to 2015-16.
Keen on Swachh Bharat campaign, JICA is targeting the water sector as the second important area, he added.
The open defecation population in the world is 104 crore, of which 62 crore belong to India.
“The infectious diseases due to open defecation is very serious in India. Diarrhoeal diseases and its complications account for 17 per cent of the cause of death of children under five,” Sakamoto said further.
He said there are serious security and health issues for women due to lack of toilets.
India aims to become open defecation free by 2019. “India is one of the main countries which is utilising our support every year in a continuous and progressive way. For development, poverty alleviation is the biggest challenge. And of course, Narendra Modi administration is very keen to step-up the bottom line of the livelihood,” Sakamoto added.