Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has promised to make Goa open-defecation free. That would make it the first state to do so and enhance its appeal as a tourist destination. Above all, it will protect people from diseases as human faeces carry a large number of viruses, bacteria and parasite cysts. It has been scientifically proved that one gram of faeces contains 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria and 1,000 parasite cysts. A child’s faeces contain more germs than an adult’s. Open defecation has been a serious threat to children’s health. It is one of the factors causing outbreak of diarrhoea which kills 1.9 lakh children in India annually. Besides, children weakened by frequent diarrhoea episodes are more vulnerable to malnutrition, stunting and opportunistic infections such as pneumonia. Parsekar must help openly defecating people build toilets with running water. Running water is key to the success of the programme.
The authorities need to draw a road map to implement the programme for which a survey is necessary to determine the number of houses which do not have toilet facilities. According to the Swachh Bharat Mission guidelines, there should be at least one toilet seat for every 30 users. The state authorities need to follow these guidelines and make provisions for adequate number of toilet seats throughout the state. Also, location of toilets should be nearer the houses of the people so that they can easily access and use them. According to the 2011 census, more than 53,000 residents in the state defecate in the open, of which 64.45 per cent homes are located in the rural areas. The numbers are expected to have gone up as division of families into nuclear families has increased the number of households in the state. Many among those who defecate in the open are migrants who rent in rooms without basic toilet facilities.
This is not the first time that the government has taken steps to make Goa open-defecation free. The state failed to implement Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan; not a single toilet was constructed under the mission in 2013-14. Having failed in the past, the state government started a process to modify the scheme providing for individual household toilets for those without the sanitation facility, but somehow the modified scheme too failed to take off. In his last budget speech Parsekar said the government would wind up the old scheme and notify a new scheme for constructing toilets. The government had then planned to construct 75,000 single seater pour flush water seal latrines in the three years, beginning 2016-17 during which construction of 30,000 toilets has been planned. The project is to be completed at a cost of Rs 142.91 crore, of which the central funds to the tune of Rs 87.13 crore would be received. The state had a scheme for construction of toilets in place since 1980s. Toilet construction work was entrusted to Sulabh International but under the new scheme families will have the option to get the toilet constructed themselves. It remains to be seen whether the government would come out with a newer scheme to ensure faster construction of toilets to reach the goal of open-defecation free Goa within a set time frame or it would implement the new scheme announced by the Chief Minister during the budget session to achieve the objective.
Open defecation is not limited to rural areas. It is prevalent even in urban areas. Despite the state having made rapid progress on all fronts, the practice of open defecation still continues due to various reasons. Several low-income families in rural areas are stuck with the habit of open defecation; besides, they do not want to spend their hard-earned money on constructing a toilet. In urban areas open defecation is driven by a number of reasons including lack of space to build toilets and refusal of the house owners to construct toilets for the use of tenants. Having decided to declare Goa open-defecation free, the authorities should carry out a special survey to find out how many people actually reside in rented premises including rooms, cubicles, extended facilities, etc to determine the number of toilet facilities that need to be constructed. Adequate number of toilet facilities with running water must be provided to the people before declaring the state open-defecation free. After having provided the facilities steps have to be taken to ensure their proper maintenance too. There is also need to monitor to prevent defecating in public places, along the roads and beaches and in open spaces, by locals and low-end tourists. Help of civil society groups dedicated to the cause of cleanliness and hygiene should be taken to prevent misuse of public places for defecation.