- Mizoram has a sanitation coverage of 76.82 per cent
- 250 of the state’s 853 villages are open defecation free
- The state government had initiated a sanitation programme in the 1980s
New Delhi: India presently has five open defecation free (ODF) states in Sikkim, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Haryana, the latter two’s rural areas declared ODF in July 2017. Mizoram is looking to join the elite list by becoming the second state in northeast India to eradicate open defecation completely. The Chief Minister of Mizoram, Lal Thanhawla had declared in December 2016 that the state will soon become ODF, though he did not declare a date. Though the state is yet to attain the status, Mizoram over the years has made considerable progress in improving rural and urban sanitation facilities for its population. Even before the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched, Mizoram had taken initiatives on behalf of the state government to better the sanitation scenario. The Mizoram Town (Sanitation) Rules of 1980 prohibited open defecation, waste disposal in public places, appointment of sanitation officers and asked local bodies to ensure better drainage and building of public sanitation complexes. With Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launching a clarion call for all states to go ODF, Mizoram actively joined the bandwagon.
Mizoram had always rooted for cleanliness and when sanitation was a huge problem in India in 1980s, the state launched two programmes named Clean Mizoram and Clean Aizawl to ensure better sanitation for the state. With the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the movement to eradicate open defecation from the state has got the much needed acceleration, said Lalenglawma Pakhoungte, Senior Sanitation Officer, Aizawl Municipal Corporation.
Urban Mizoram has shown good performance since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan began. 2,349 individual household toilets (IHHLs) have been constructed in the city, along with 53 public toilet complexes. 16 cities, including the capital Aizawl are open defecation free. The urban civic bodies of the state have also focused on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Urban’s other guidelines such as regular door-to-door waste collection. As of 31 July 2017, 66 wards across Mizoram boast of 100 per cent door-to-door waste collection. Aizawl was also ranked a respectable 104 out of 434 cities in this year’s Swachh Survekshan.
Since the sanitation campaign began in 2014, we have constructed more than 2,000 toilets across urban spaces in the state. Despite difficult geography and terrain, the construction of these toilets and their remaining functional is an achievement for us. Our only drawbacks have been not being able to produce waste to energy and waste compost. But we are working on that and will surely show improvement on those fronts as well, said Mr Pakhoungte.
For Mizoram to become ODF, the work on its rural front will need to improve speedily. Currently, only 250 of its 853 villages have been declared ODF by the state, which accounts for 35.51 per cent. What must be taken into account that rural Mizoram has made remarkable progress in improving its sanitation scenario over the past 3 years, ever since the sanitation campaign began.
Only 60 villages were ODF in the state in 2015-16, and no block or district had yet received the recognition. In 2016-17 the number more than tripled to 216 villages which became ODF within a year, a huge improvement on the state’s performance compared to any previous year. The rural sanitation coverage jumped from 11.36 per cent to 30.68 per cent. This jump of nearly 20 per cent was what made Mizoram realise that the state could go ODF before 2019, and prompted the Chief Minister to make the declaration. Presently, 13 Blocks in the state are ODF and four districts have been bestowed with the distinction.
Eradicating open defecation from the rural areas is the main challenge for us. 600 villages remain to become ODF and it will be a huge challenge to make them ODF by the end of this year, or even earlier next year. The terrain is a big challenge and constructing toilets across the rough terrain and in villages which are situated along the troubled region of Indo-Bangladesh border is proving to be a challenge. We have involved a number of local communities to help us implement the Swachh Bharat objectives, R. Lalhmingthanga, Secretary, Rural Development Department, Mizoram.
The state government is involving local communities to visit villages, along with district level officials, to convince villagers to build toilets. The numbers look daunting for the state, and several challenges exist too. But the state’s positives have been many, including the year 2016-17 which saw a 20 per cent jump in its rural sanitation numbers. For the entire state to become ODF, Mizoram will look to replicate its success story from previous years, as the stakes are much higher this time.