ABDUL WAHAB KHAN | NT
Goa is unlikely to get open defecation free status by 2019 under the Swachh Bharat Mission as toilet construction has been tardy and the process to procure bio-toilets has also been in a slow lane.
The five-year tenure for the ambitious toilet-construction programme will expire in October 2019, and the state government’s ODF dream will not be achieved anytime soon.
A reality check has indicated that the procedure involved in declaring a ward as open defecation free is very lengthy. The process entails the installation of toilets at identified sites, the submission of undertakings from schools and NGOs, the adoption of resolutions by local bodies as well as third-party audit to validate the ODF claims.
The procedure takes at least four months for local bodies to abide by all the compliances for the ODF tag.
The state government’s sudden decision to shift the responsibility of toilet construction from the Goa State Urban Development Agency and the panchayat department to the Goa Waste Management Corporation has been looked upon as one of the reasons for the delay in fulfulling the ODF dream.
The GSUDA had earlier almost finalised the model and technical specifications for bio-toilets and was to float tender for the second time. Had everything gone as per plan then Goa would have been the first state in the country to procure bio-toilets for identified households.
However, the plan floundered after the remit was shifted, forcing the corporation to restart the procedure.
Consequently the corporation has extended the deadline to January for submitting technical and financial bids.
The Swachh Bharat Mission has been moving at a snail’s pace in the country’s smallest state, which is also a top tourist destination in the world.
Official sources admitted that the construction of household toilets in villages has been tardy with just seven per cent of construction rate. And in urban areas the toilet construction rate has been worst: the achievement is only five per cent.
A survey carried out by the Goa State Urban Development Agency in December last year has found that at least 3011 households in urban areas are in the need of toilets. Moreover, a survey on toilet requirements was carried out by the directorate of panchayats with the help of the Rural Development Agency in villages.
However, it is yet to come clear on the actual number of toilets required in the rural areas.
The Swachh Bharat Mission says that Goa is among the five states with lowest ODF coverage of just 5.87 per cent – the other four states are Odisha, Bihar, Tripura and Telangana.
GSUDA figures have indicated that some 215 municipal wards are used for open defecation, and none of them have been declared ODF. Of the 215 municipal wards, 100 wards are most vulnerable to open defecation. Most of these localities have fields, open spaces, slums and water bodies.
These identified open defecation sites will get ODF status only after they are equipped with bio-toilets. A survey by government officials will have to be conducted to authenticate the claims, and the authenticated claims will have to be seconded by a third-party audit.
The protocol framed by the Centre for declaring wards as ODF is very lengthy. It includes obtaining self-declaration from every school and self-help group in the ward saying that every student and resident has access to toilet and nobody defecates in the open. Thereafter, the civic body will have to pass a resolution declaring the ward as ODF and publishes the resolution in a newspaper inviting objections and feedback within 15 days.
A report will have to be sent to the state government accordingly. The state government will then ensure that the claim of the council is verified by the Quality Council of India, as third-party agency for certifying the protocol.
Although the state government wants to adopt the widespread use of bio-toilets in recognition of their affordability, ease of maintenance, and water saving, but the social acceptance of bio-toilets is a major hurdle to implementation.
However, sanitation experts and waste management consultants have pointed out that bio-toilets to get accepted by local population will require mass awareness on benefits.