- Shamli is the first district in the state to be declared ODF
- Involvement of the local community played a big role in Shamli
- Uttar Pradesh aims to become open defecation free by October 2018
Shamli district located in Western Uttar Pradesh has emerged on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan map as the first district of the state to become open defecation free (ODF). No mean achievement, given that Uttar Pradesh is one of the worst performing states of the campaign. The state has rural sanitation coverage of 47.78 per cent, which could be considered as poor due to the state’s geographical magnanimity. As far as the urban areas are concerned, 25 of Uttar Pradesh’s cities were featured in the bottom 50 of Swachh Survekshan 2017, a list of rankings of cities on sanitation and cleanliness, released by the Ministry of Urban Development.
Till about a year ago, 25 per cent of this district’s nearly 13 lakh population (12,74,815) were defecating in the open. In March 2016, the then District Magistrate, Sujeet Kumar took charge of the situation. The administration decided to begin awareness camps in the district to help people understand why defecating in the open was an unhealthy practice.
The district administration invited people from the villages to several of its awareness campaigns. Sadly, the initial awareness campaigns failed to make the kind of impact the administration had hoped for, as many were of the opinion that defecating in the open during a casual morning walk was a healthy practice. Believers in this concept also tried to influence others and asked them to undermine the importance of toilets by dissuading them.
When the awareness meetings did not turn out to be highly successful, the administration approached a more personalised way of reaching out. Groups were formed by the district administration, which went from village to village and interacted with individuals whose households had no functioning toilets. They spoke at length about the benefits of having toilets at homes, and how toilets can considerably reduce health risks.
From the very beginning, we ensured that the focus remained on bringing in behavioural change among people. Open defecation had become a part of most of these people’s lives and the thought of it occurred naturally to them. Instead of addressing crowds, we adopted a more personalised approach of going from door-to-door in villages which had low number of toilets, said Sujeet Kumar, Ex-District Magistrate, Shamli.
Involve Community Approach
As a part of the sanitation campaign, the administration implemented a community led total sanitation (CLTS) approach. A CLTS approach ensured that all members of a village community, irrespective of their age and gender contributed towards the sanitation campaign. Several triggering exercises were performed under the CLTS approach, such as providing basic information on health and hygiene, telling people about the physical, mental and social improvements which could be achieved when a village becomes ODF. Many team members from the district administration stayed in villages for 5 days to form monitoring committees of villagers. These committees were formed to ensure that they monitored the progress of sanitation work in the villages.
The enthusiasm among the local population only kept increasing and the district administration encouraged them at each step. From organising pride rallies with local participation to street plays, the administration ensured that the interest of the people was sustained.
A Roaring Success
Shamli had sanitation coverage of 71.65 per cent in 2015, which soared to 100 per cent in 2017, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the district administration and the local population. A total of 39,967 toilets were built across 320 villages of Shamli, ensuring that each household had access to an individual toilet.
Toilets and healthy sanitation practices ensure a better society and that is what we worked towards when we were constructing toilets. The district is a perfect example of how collaborative efforts of the administration and the local population can work successfully. It is only because of a community led approach that Shamli has become the state’s first ODF district, said Vinod Kumar Singh, Chief Development Officer, Shamli.
The newly appointed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has set an ambitious target of making the state ODF by October 2018 by eradicating open defecation across its 59,000 gram panchayats. Given the current sanitation scenario of the state, the deadline looks like a tough ask to adhere to. But the example of Shamli and the district administration’s unique methods of bringing together the community to eradicate open defecation can serve as a good example for other districts, towns and cities of the Uttar Pradesh to follow.