Sri Lankan Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera presents the 2019 budget proposals at the parliament in Colombo, Sri Lanka March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Sri Lanka’s government allocated money to build toilets in over a quarter million homes Tuesday, under an ambitious project to flush out the practice of “open defecation” within a year.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told parliament the government will spend 4,000 million rupees ($22 million) to build toilets for people living in over 260,000 private homes.

“It is appalling that so many of our people do not have access to basic hygiene,” Samaraweera said while unveiling the national budget for 2019. “Our aim is to ensure that by the end of the year, all homes in Sri Lanka will have toilets.”

The latest official figures show that nearly 15 percent of the 21 million population have no access to toilets and classified as “open defecators,” or those using the open environment to relieve themselves.

Samaraweera said public conveniences at bus and railway stations were filthy and unusable, and the government would unveil a plan to ensure clean toilets with the participation of the private cleaning companies.

In some major cities, railway stations have set up toilets only for the use of foreign tourists.