New Delhi: Deogarh district in Odisha went against all odds and is now showing India that strong will is all that is needed to end open defecation. Transforming to an open defecation free (ODF) district where majority of the households are surrounded by lush green forests has indeed been a challenge for the state government. When the campaign of Swachh Bharat was launched in 2014, the municipal authorities of Deogarh started taking baby steps towards providing toilet access to people with the mantra of ‘One Toilet At A Time’.
In 2014, only 11 per cent of the 71,000 households in the district had access to toilets. In two and half years, the Deogarh Municipal Corporation (DMC) constructed 67,061 toilets making Deogarh the first district in Odisha to become open defecation free. The district comprising 698 villages had self-declared itself as ODF last month and after conducting a three level verification process, the state government on August 2 declared it ODF. The Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik took to twitter and announced the good news, “Congratulations Deogarh on becoming 1st #OpenDefecationFree district in #Odisha. Urge others to strive hard with mission to make state #ODF.”
— Naveen Patnaik (@Naveen_Odisha) August 4, 2017
Congratulating the district, internationally acclaimed sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik dedicated an entire sand art to Deogarh, “My SandArt at Puribeach with message Congratulations to #Deogarh for the first #OpenDefecationFree District in Odisha. #SwachhBharat”
— Sudarsan Pattnaik (@sudarsansand) August 3, 2017
The Journey of Making the Distant Region of Deogarh ODF
Talking to NDTV, Prakash Chandra Mohapatra, Executive Engineer, Water Supply and Sanitation Division, DMC says, “Nearly 50 per cent of the villages in Deogarh are partly cut off from the mainstream as there is no infrastructure, no proper communication mechanisms with practically no signs of development.”
In addition to this, most of the villages are situated on hills and hence transporting raw materials for constructing toilets was a daunting task for the civic authorities. In such a scenario, the authorities decided to make use of the locally available materials like stones and sand to build toilets.
Trainers from Hyderabad were called in to impart training to the local authorities on ways to optimally utilise the available resources. Toilets were built with stones, the roofs were made with thick muds. adds Mr Mohapatra. Despite so many logistical constraints, thousands of toilets were built in the last two years.
When asked about bringing in a behavourial change towards toilet usage Mr Mohapatra says, “Due to a shortage of staff, deputing officers to monitor the post toilet building usage in every village was not possible. So we appointed people from 3,500 local Self-Help Groups (SHGs) as monitors.” The SHGs were also instrumental in bringing about an attitudinal change in people who have been defecating in the open for years.
To ensure a 100% toilet usage the district administration is now planning to come out with a ‘prize and punishment’ initiative, “We have already started penalising people who are found defecating in the open. To encourage people to use their toilets we may come out with some exciting surprises,” says Mr Mohapatra.
With Deogarh achieving 100% toilet coverage, 158 districts in India have turned ODF. As per the 2017 target of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the government aims to make 300 districts ODF by end of this year.