Gandhian Sanitation: Political will, proactive sarpanch changed the sanitation scene in Mariyapuram

The village sarpanch formed self-help and youth groups to motivate the village residents; the Panchayat constructed 192 individual and nine community soak pits in the village

By Sushmita Sengupta, Swati Bhatia, Ravi K
Published: Saturday 01 October 2022

On October 2, 2022, India marks the 153rd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. As is well known, Gandhiji always laid emphasis on cleanliness and sanitation.

“Unless we rid ourselves of our dirty habits and have improved latrines, Swaraj can have no value for us,” he had stated. “Sanitation is more important than independence,” he had added on another occasion. Gandhiji focussed on cleanliness and sanitation whether in South Africa or in India.

Down To Earth pays homage to the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi regarding cleanliness by profiling villages and districts across India where people have worked to radically improve their lot through better solutions for drinking water and sanitation.

Mariyapuram village in Geesugonda mandal of Warangal rural district in Telangana has a population of 760, with 192 households. The households have functional taps provided under Jal Jeevan Mission. Availability of enough water in households means generation of grey water from kitchens and bathrooms.

Grey water from the households was disposed of into the open, resulting in water stagnation and mosquito breeding. This caused diseases such as dengue and malaria every year, especially during the rainy season. Households were on average spending 40-50 per cent of their income on health during the monsoons.

Cleaning of an open drain leading to the community soak pit in Mariyapuram village (Photo: Ravi Kumar, CSE)

The change

Political will and a proactive sarpanch brought about development of the village by focusing on personal hygiene and sanitation.

To tackle grey water flooding, the panchayat constructed soak pits in every household. In 2018-19, the Gram Panchayat under the leadership of sarpanch Allam Bali Reddy motivated people to construct magic soak pits (as soak pits are called in Telangana).

The village sarpanch formed self-help and youth groups to propel the village residents. Door-to-door campaigns were conducted to generate awareness in the community.

Clean drain in Mariyapuram village (Photo: Ravi Kumar, CSE)The Panchayat constructed 192 individual and nine community soak pits in the village.

Currently, no grey water flows in the drains. In 2019-21, the groundwater level of the village increased by a maximum of 7.26 metres (measured by the piezometer at the house of Shyamal Joji Reddy) as a result of groundwater recharge through soak pits along with 37 farm ponds constructed in the village.

The soak pits and farm ponds were constructed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). An amount of Rs 4,290 was allocated for construction of an individual soak pit and Rs 13,360 for community soak pits.

Operation and maintenance

Individual soak pits are taken care by the household owners, who monitor the inspection chamber constructed before the soak pits.

An overflow from this chamber indicates that the soak pit is clogged. The owner then cleans the soak pit to make it functional. Mandal Panchayat officials convey awareness messages to communities about periodic cleaning.

The Gram Panchayat cleans the community soak pits when the soak pits are clogged. Gram Panchayat sweepers also clean drains and clear them from solid waste when they fill up.

Source: Compiled by CSE

Community soak pit at the end of a street in Mariyapuram village

Key points

  • Individual soak pit: 1.20 m (length) x 1.20 m (width) x 1.80 m (depth)
  • Community soak pit: 2.40 m (length) x 2.40 m (width) x 1.80 m (depth)
  • Cost of construction of individual soak pit: Rs 4,453 l Cost community soak pit: Rs 14,147

This is a part of Water Compendium published by the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

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