Odisha lowest-performing State in latrine coverage
The World Toilet Day is celebrated on November 19. At the global level, the central role of access to water and sanitation for sustainable development is now fully confirmed with the formal adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the UN General Assembly. By 2030, the SDGs aim to reach everyone with sanitation, and halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase recycling and safe reuse. The theme for 2017 is “wastewater”.
Odisha is among the lowest-performing State in terms of latrine coverage. In 2011, 85 per cent of rural households defecated in the open and latrine coverage increased marginally by seven percentage points between 2001 and 2011, reaching 22 per cent. Those that own a latrine often do not use it regularly. The Government of Odisha has introduced a new Urban Sanitation Policy 2017. This policy defines a clear vision and goal to make all cities and towns in the State totally clean, sanitised and safe managed by ULBs with active citizen and stakeholder participation.
There is no sewerage system in most of the towns in Odisha at present. Most of the households discharge the sewage into natural drains and waterways causing serious public health and environmental hazards to the people.
Sanitation in India is a State subject. State-level steering committees and urban departments play the role of guidance and support to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) which are responsible for final implementation of sanitation at the local level. Bhubaneswar's growth is faster than the State's urban growth rate. Along with Bhubaneswar's urban growth, there is a simultaneous growth and expansion of the slum population and its slum areas. While 18 per cent households have individual latrines, only two per cent households have access to community toilets. There are 91 community toilets available in 31 slums. Water supply to toilets, both household and public, remains a major problem. Waste disposal for these toilets remains a concern.
Only 20 per cent of slums are within 50 metres of an existing sewerage network, while 71 per cent are beyond 100 meters. Therefore connecting the toilets to sewerage network is very difficult.
Bhubaneswar has 124 public toilets across the city. Till 2016, the number of public toilets in the city was 65 but due to the civic body’s toilet building initiatives, the number nearly doubled in a year. Besides, modern public toilets, proposed under the Ama Sauchalaya scheme, are taken up by Sulabh International.
Even as Bhubaneswar was ranked the top Smart City, the city had obtained less mark in the service category, such as provision of public and community toilets. The city scored to 24th rank in cleanliness among the 73 cities rated under Swachh Sarvekshan (cleanliness survey) conducted by the Center and this year it scored 94 rank.
The rate of open defecation in slum areas continues to be high and the civic body has committed to spend more on information, education and communication (IEC) to educate people about the importance of using toilets. Besides, the Swachh Bharat Mission cell of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation is working towards making Odisha capital an open defecation-free (ODF) city by 2019.
Though the number of toilets has increased significantly, the municipal corporation has faced repeated complaints from citizens regarding lack of water supply in some toilets. Despite the doubling of numbers in public toilets, many areas continue to see people defecating in the open. The city has failed to maintain proper sanitation systems and provide enough public toilets for its ever-growing population.
Majority of the existing systems for sewage collection and treatment are not functioning well. It is obvious that the existing sewerage system needs major augmentation to almost full extent to ensure full coverage of the population and future wastewater generation.
Wastewater is discharged through outfalls into the Gangua nala and finally to Daya river. Only part of the generated sewage flows through closed conduits, and a major quantity flows through the open drains (10). The drain No.1 opens into the Kuakhai river and the remaining 9 open drains (Nos.2-10) to Gangua. Most of the city roads have open drains. However, their functioning is hindered by blockages due to solid wastes dumped in drains. Narrow drains, drains with improper slopes or non-existence of drains in some areas have caused flooding and water logging, thus increasing the risk of diseases like malaria etc. Existing drains are also used to carry effluents from latrine pits as well as from septic tanks. In a few pockets, a raw sewage was also being discharged in the drains from the latrine pits. Connections from houses to drains are also not properly done in many places causing spilling of such wastewater on roads or nearby areas.
Qualities of life largely depend on safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Therefore in addition to the construction of toilets, the sanitation system should cover the removal, transport and safe treatment or disposal of excreta. Discharging untreated sewage into any drains other than an underground sewerage system, or into open land, is an offence and invites prosecution under the laws of all Pollution Control Boards in the country. The disposal of sewage should be done in a safe and sustainable way to achieve improved sanitation for all. Besides, sewage must be treated properly and then re-used/re-cycled for various uses that do not need potable water quality.
(Dr Praharaj teaches at Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar)
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