Gonda district in Uttar Pradesh recently built 32,000 toilets in just 120 hours to meet the target of 100 per cent toilet coverage, but is taking up such ambitious projects the way to solving the problem of open defecation?
After the district headquarter of Gonda was declared the dirtiest city in India by the Swachh Survekshan ranking released on May 4, 2017, the district administration decided to launch ‘Mission 32’, under which they constructed 32,000 toilets within 120 hours.
The launch of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) saw the rate of toilet construction in Gonda pick up. Around three times more toilets were built in 2014-15 compared to pre-SBM. In 2017-18, it went up to 21 times, but were they being used?
According to Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, as on March 26, 2018, the district of Gonda had more than 25,000 dysfunctional toilets.
Under SBM, only 1.7 per cent toilets were turned functional, which still leaves the district with more than 24,000 dysfunctional toilets.
Deepak Sanan, former additional chief secretary, government of Himachal Pradesh, rejects the construction-focused model in favour of a strategy aimed at creating community demand for toilets. Ending open defecation rather than constructing toilets should be the goal.
Thousands of toilets are being constructed but without a plan for solid and liquid waste management. Till date, nothing has been spent on formulating a plan, say district officials.
Despite the fact that 91 per cent of Gonda’s rural population or 70 per cent of the district’s total population prefer open defecation, shouldn’t changing the practice be the aim rather than building more and more toilets?
Drives like ‘Mission 32’ can help Gonda achieve the target on paper, but is providing access to toilets the only check box the administration needs to tick to get the open-defecation free status? Guess not
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