Water

COVID-19: Importance of ensuring safety of sanitation workers in Nashik

The city has put its efforts to combat COVID-19 by ensuring the provision of essential services to front-line workers and maintaining cleanliness

 
By Praveen Chature, Ekta Gupta
Published: Thursday 20 August 2020
Nashik has been better off in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic compared to its counterparts in Maharashtra. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted lives across the world, with 22,598,225 reported cases globally, according to tracker worldometers.info. India reported 689,088 active cases and 54,017 deaths as of August 20, 2020, according to private tracker covid19india.org. Maharashtra became the most affected, compared to other states, with 160,413 active cases and 21,033 deaths as of August 19, according to covid19india.org.

At the city level, Nashik was better off compared to its counterparts in the state. There were 9,411 positive cases, of which 1,828 were active cases, with 7,307 recovered and 276 dead, according to data from the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC).

Best management practices by Nashik

The city put all its efforts to combat COVID-19 by ensuring the provision of essential services to unprivileged individuals / labourers / front-line workers and maintaining cleanliness. The sanitation services provided by NMC to fight COVID-19 included:

  • Sanitisation of public areas
  • Shelter homes for migrants / quarantine facilities for outsiders
  • Food distribution at NMC’s shelter homes
  • Sanitisation tunnels in government offices and hospitals
  • Emergency helpline numbers
  • Foot operated hand-washing systems at the Tapovan sewage treatment plant
  • Health screening in containment zones
  • Awareness generation through posters and videos
  • Provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to sanitary workers and special protective clothing to sanitary workers in containment zones

Sanitation workers’ ground reality

A team from Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) visited Nashik and conducted a survey for a shit flow diagram. Most of Nashik was connected to a sewerage network or a hybrid system of on-site sanitation systems — containments including septic tanks and fully lined tanks — whose outlets were connected to sewerage networks, the team reported.

The city — declared open-defecation free (ODF++), with 100 per cent toilets coverage and wastewater treatment — was divided into six zones. Each zone had a government-owned vacuum tanker, according to field observations and stakeholder discussions. Officials were well-equipped in terms of catering to the city’s population and taking safety measures by ensuring they wore PPEs.

Based on our field visit, however, we also came across informal manual workers who worked without any safety equipment and gear, putting themselves at great risk due to direct exposure to excreta.

These workers mostly operated in low-income areas / informal settlements with narrow roads and had several financial constraints. It is, thus, of paramount importance for the city to adopt an inclusive approach and provide an enabling environment that accommodates the informal sector as well.

Recommendations

Nashik must include informal sanitation workers while forming plans and policies, as a part of city-wide inclusive sanitation. The health and safety of sanitation workers must be taken into priority, including providing them PPEs and regular medical health check-ups.

Special care must be taken while managing waste in containment zones or quarantine facilities. This can be complemented with proper training and sensitisation of the sanitation workers through information, education and communication interventions on good practices of maintaining personal and overall hygiene.

Good practices must include the importance of PPEs, mandatory hand-washing before and after work, carrying hand sanitisers in the absence of soap and change of clothes after work.

Sanitation workers put their lives at risk as they keep our surroundings clean and help us fight COVID-19. Their protection should be our primary responsibility at all times and not just during the pandemic.

CSE, thus, recommends the adoption of key government advisories from the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Central Pollution Control Board, etc issued by the Union and state governments.

The think-tank has a COVID-19 repository for easier access of government advisories, best practices and communication collaterals issued by several ministries.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.