- Chennai will be soon be declared ODF, says city’s civic body
- Instances of open defecation still prevalent in Chennai’s slums
- Fines will be imposed on those defecating openly, says civic commissioner
As the national deadline to achieve open defecation free (ODF) status for India comes closer, cities are gearing up with their unique plans to eradicate open defecation. ODF declarations, from villages to cities are coming in fast and so are reports of many such declarations being untrue. Chennai is facing one such struggle at the moment, and though the municipal corporation of Chennai is ready to declare its areas as ODF, instances of open defecation continue to be visible.
On November 17, 2017, the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) announced that all 200 wards of the city were open defecation free, essentially making the city wholly open defecation free. 165 wards in Chennai had gone ODF on October this year. Though the city civic body has not yet formally declared the city ODF, commissioner D. Karthikeyan has said that the announcement will be made very shortly. Till date, the municipal corporation has constructed over 5,000 individual household latrines, along with 650 public toilets. Rs 3.6 crore has already been spent by the city civic body in the past three years to construct toilets.
We are presently collecting public responses as to if they are facing any problems or not with regard to accessing toilets. We are confident that responses will be positive. We will work on any negative responses and accordingly declare the ODF status for the city, but are confident of doing so within the next month, said Dr. Karthikeyan, Municipal Commissioner, Chennai.
The ODF status of the city will be based on self-declaration from residents and this is where experts are weighing in their opinions and are doubtful of the city’s actual degree of eradication of open defecation. Gramalaya, a non-government organisation which has worked in improving Chennai’s sanitation scenario has cast a doubt on the city’s potential ODF status because instances of people relieving themselves in the open are still quite common.
How can the municipal corporation declare the city ODF when many people are still defecating in the open? The work done by the GCC is worthy of appreciation and a number of household and public toilets have been built over the past two years. But ODF declaration should only take place when there is absolutely no instance of open defecation throughout the city, said S Damodaran, Programme Officer, Gramalaya.
The civic body’s lack of a strategic plan to bring in behavioural change seems to be hurting its ODF plans. Some wards in the city do not have a community toilet within 500 metres for all households, a primary requirement for going ODF. A report compiled by Gramalaya found that residents in slums throughout the city preferred to defecate in the open due to age-old habits as well as lack of functional toilets within accessible distances.
The city’s municipal commissioner stated that he has already given the orders for imposition of fines on anyone found guilty of defecating in the open.
The city’s ODF declaration, when it comes, will be in line with the Swachh Bharat Urban guidelines. We have followed every guideline during construction of the toilets and will do the same for declaring the city ODF. We have already started distributing pamphlets requesting people not to defecate in the open and gradually, the effect will take place, said Mr Karthikeyan.
Chennai fared poorly in 2017 Swachh Survekshan, securing a rank of 235 out of 434 cities and would like to move up this year. An ODF declaration will definitely boost Chennai’s chances of moving up the ranks, but continued practice of open defecation may relegate it further.