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Four states may defeat India’s fight against open defecation

Sunita Narain20170831173743_l

Patna, Aug 31 (IANS) India and the world cannot meet their cleanliness goals unless four Indian states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha — become free of open defecation, Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said on Thursday.?

"These four states together account for a massive 60 per cent of the people in India who defecate in open. For India and the world to go ODF (Open Defecation Free), the four states will need to clean up their act first. This is a big challenge because for that it has to build toilets for 6.4 crore families," CSE Director General Sunita Narain told media at a briefing on sanitation.

Narain, who released the findings of the study in Patna, said the numbers might be much larger as about 79 lakh existing toilets were in an unusable condition.

"It is one thing to build toilets and quite another to ensure they are used. Besides motivating people to change, concrete steps other than those that deter them from defecating in the open will have to be taken. These will include repairing, rebuilding unusable toilets and incentivising behaviourial changes," she added.

According to a United Nations report published in 2014, out of one billion people defecating in the open across the world, 60 per cent are from India. While India has resolved to meet its goal of ODF by 2019, the world has targeted to achieve the sustainable development goal of being Open Defecation Free by 2030.

The CSE study revealed that Bihar will have to build toilets for some 202 lakh families under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).

"At the moment, the state has the poorest record in terms of rural sanitation. Out of the total 6.4 crore households without toilets in the country, 22 per cent are in Bihar. Till June 2017, around 70 per cent of its population was yet to get access to toilets. More than 50 per cent of girls miss school in Bihar due to absence of proper toilets in schools."

Sushmita Sengupta, the lead researcher behind the CSE study, said the state had focused on building toilets at break-neck speed without making people aware about cleanliness and without ensuring these toilets were functional and used.

"Of the 16 lakh toilets built under the campaign in Bihar, 50 per cent were completed in 2016-17."

Around 99 per cent of the state’s expenditure has gone towards building toilets. However, the abysmal quality of the toilets built means that their usage has been very low.

"Bihar has converted less than one per cent of the total dysfunctional toilets in the country into functional ones," she said.

CSE’s research findings show that even as the state continues to build more toilets, the target of 100 per cent household toilet coverage in Bihar will happen only by 2033. In fact, all the assembly constituencies of Bihar’s leading cabinet Ministers are defaulters as none of the districts in which these constituencies are located can achieve the target by October 2019.

In case of Uttar Pradesh, around 54 per cent of the people in rural areas defecate in the open. Of the 6.4 crore households needing toilets, 23 per cent are in Uttar Pradesh.

"It has built around 17.41 lakh toilets in 2016-17, the usage has not picked up due to slow disbursal of funds, rampant corruption and lack of basic necessities like water," the CSE study said.

Only 40 per cent of the 90 lakh families living in rural Odisha have access to toilets. Some districts like Puri have achieved 100 per cent coverage. But many toilets being built are being used as store houses for fodder, the CSE study found.

Compared with the other three states, Jharkhand is doing relatively better with 53 per cent families having access to toilets. About 73 per cent of the 4,402 village panchayats have been part of various awareness campaigns on the issue of rural sanitation.

"One of the reasons behind Jharkhand’s relative success is the involvement of local communities and bodies such as women’s self help groups," the CSE study said.

Narain said the real success of the drive to make India ODF can only be measured by "the number of people who find it worthwhile to use the toilets that we are building".

"Our report suggests that it is imperative to educate communities, build provisions for better waste water and soil waste management and focus on re-use and recycling to achieve tangible results," she said, adding that building toilets is not sanitation.

"No doubt, the ODF is a global challenge and India has to work hard for it."

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