The 2009 Stockholm Water Prize, the water world’s equivalent of the Nobel, was awarded to Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India and whose work is known worldwide for advancement and focus in the areas of public health, social progress and human rights.
He has done extensive work since founding the organization in 1970 supporting the installation of modernized, sanitary toilet systems to eliminate the traditional practice of human waste “scavenging” by India’s untouchables caste.
In a 2007 paper titled The Human Right to Water, Pacific Institute Program Director Dr. Peter Gleick argues that water should officially be declared a basic human right. This and similar issues around water and human sanitation as a basic human right were on the top of the list of issues discussed at the 2009 World Water Week in Stockholm that just concluded. The conference brought together leaders, academics and activists from around the world and focused on the world water crisis.
In his acceptance speech Dr. Pathak emphasized the close relationship between water and sanitation:
“If water is honoured by the Prize being named after it, the importance of sanitation, its sibling, cannot be left far behind. 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.”
The host and organizer of Water Week was the The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) “a policy institute that seeks sustainable solutions to the world’s escalating water crisis.” The institute is involved in management, research and publishing around water, environmental, governance and human development issues.