Statement of Douglas Keh UNDP Country Director at the Handing-over Ceremony of the Community-based Water and Sanitation Project, Kattankudy

23 Sep 2011

Honorable Chairman of the Urban Council, Mr. Al-Haj Asfar, Honorable Deputy Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs M.A. Hisbullah, Mr. Miguel Angel Ruz, Vice President South-West Asia, Coca Cola, Mr. Abhishek Jugran, Country Manager of Coca-Cola Far East Limited, and Mr. Patrick Peche, Country Manager of Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka,  Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
First of all, to our hosts, let me thank you for inviting me, and to all of you, thank you for being with us today. It is wonderful to see so many happy faces and to realize what we – through public-private partnerships - can do through shared commitment to conservation and support to rural communities.
 
To the representatives of the Government of Sri Lanka, it is an honour to be here with you today, and thank you for gracing this occasion with your presence.  These days, the world needs to be reminded that the UN and the Government of Sri Lanka have indeed a close partnership that goes back many many years.  Through this cooperation, and a shared vision of how to help the people of Sri Lanka, many achievements have been realized, with hard work and determination. 
 
And of course, I also want to take this opportunity to thank Coca-Cola, both Coca-Cola Far East Limited, as well as Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka, for the opportunity to work with you on this project, for your vision to bring all of these parties together in a common endeavor.  In particular, I want to thank my good friend Patrick Peche, and his team – for their patience, perseverance and fortitude!  It’s been a long ride – and one with many ups and downs.  This is all the more reason that it brings me great satisfaction to be here with you today, on this long-awaited occasion.
 
Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, once famously observed (in 1746),  “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water”.  I think it is with this concept in mind, the need to anticipate the needs of the future, that this project was launched. 
As you know, access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities are two very critical issues around the world.  In Sri Lanka, especially in the coastal areas, these issues became even more critical following the tsunami.
 
We started this project in 2006 with funds from the Coca Cola Company and the United Nations Foundation. This was just two years after the tsunami. Our aim was to ensure that your community would have access to clean drinking water and improved sanitary facilities. Towards this end, we together with the Urban Council constructed a sewerage system connecting 350 households.
 
But, our role at UNDP is not limited to building infrastructure per se. Instead, what we do is by building such infrastructure, we support increasing the range of choices that you will have to support your families, through more sustainable income-generation, financial independence, and economic growth.
 
The training programmes we conducted as part of the project was to help equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to maintain and manage the sewerage system in the long term.
 
From the start, there was also a lot of interest and support from all of you. This was very encouraging and by raising your concerns, you provided many valuable insights into how this project should be implemented. I am grateful to all of you for your ideas, your guidance.
 
This project also brought together different partners. The project was funded by the Coca Cola Company and the United Nations Foundation. The Kattankudy Urban Council was responsible for the monitoring and supervision of on-site work and training was provided by the Medical Health Division of Local Authorities and the Department of Health. These partnerships helped us to implement the project effectively – and to sustain the momentum through difficult times.
 
These facilities are now yours; I recall one company long ago used to have a slogan, “It’s the real thing.”  Yes, this is the real thing; after many false starts and illusory endings, we are finally here to hand this system over to you.  I urge all of you to use these wisely, with due regard for maintaining the facilities, and to make sure they will benefit generations to come.
 
Thank you.