New Delhi: “We worked on a barter system. For instance, the fishermen community told us that they don’t have any school in their area. So, we told them that we will build a school if you stop defecating in open and it worked really well”, says A. Hemanth, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation. From inducements to motivate people to use toilets, to planting trees at common open defecation spots and pasting pictures of different god and goddesses and converting open grounds into play grounds, volleyball court and other spaces – Andhra Pradesh left no stone unturned to put an end to open defecation. And the results speak for themselves. The eighth largest state in India, Andhra Pradesh declared the urban counterpart free from the practice of open defecation back in October 2016. Following the footsteps of urban areas, rural Andhra Pradesh which holds 66.64 per cent of the state’s population, was declared open defecation free (ODF) on June 7 this year by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. Now, the state aims to become India’s first ODF plus state by January 26, 2019. The three focus areas under this plan will be total sanitation, solid and liquid waste management.
AP becomes the First Large State in the Country to be declared as Open Defecation Free. We are now working towards achieving the ODF+ status. #ODFstate
— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) June 7, 2018
Urban Andhra Pradesh’s Swachh Performance
While talking to NDTV about how Andhra Pradesh managed to declare all its 110 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) ODF within two years of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, K Suresh Babu, Chief Operating Officer, Swachh Andhra Corporation, says,
The first task for us was to repair over two lakh toilets which was done effectively in a short period of time. Apart from this, over 2 lakh (2,28,308) IHHTs (Individual Household Toilets) were constructed at an expenditure of Rs. 340 crores. Also, 8,511 community toilet seats and 5,786 public toilet seats were constructed.
The ODF status of all the ULBs cleared third party verification not once, but four times. The fourth verification was completed recently.
The swachh efforts of the state were clearly reflected in all the three editions of Swachh Survekshan. The first Swachh Survekshan in 2016 that covered mere 73 cities ranked Visakhapatnam, the port city, as the fifth cleanest city in India. In Swachh Survekshan 2017, eight of Andhra Pradesh’s 32 ULBs that participated were ranked among the top 50 clean cities. In 2018, Vijayawada was awarded the ‘Best Cleanest City’ under population category of more than 10 lakh and Tirupati was awarded for ‘Best City in Solid Waste Management’ under the population category of 1 to 3 lakh.
Waste Management In Urban Andhra Pradesh
Focusing on ODF plus which aims at sustaining the ODF tag by ensuring improved access to IHHLs (Individual Household Latrines), community and public toilets and ODF Plus Plus which includes liquid waste / fecal sludge and septage management (FSSM), Swachh Andhra Corporation (SAC) has prepared a swachhta calendar. Every month an issue related to cleanliness is undertaken and awareness activities organised around it.
For instance, while in June we had a recycle week; July was for Van Mahotsav celebrations. September is being observed as ‘Zero Waste’. This year on October 2, we will have state level awards ceremony and felicitation day, tells Mr. Babu.
For effective waste management, seven waste to energy projects of capacity 54 MW, processing 3,823 tonnes of waste per day that cover 42 ULBs will be commissioned during March-May 2019. Nine waste to biogas projects in 10 ULBs and waste to compost projects in 36 ULBs are under progress and will be commissioned by November 2018. Under Public Private Partnership Model (PPP), 3 construction and demolition (C&D) waste processing plants are under construction – in Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation for treatment of 80 tonnes per day (TPD), Vijayawada Municipal Corporation with waste treatment capacity of 70 TPD, and in Tirupati with waste treatment capacity of 55 TPD.
Visakhapatnam, the largest city and the financial capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh has already started composting. Around a year and half ago, the city started composting wet waste and today 200 tonnes of wet waste is treated daily. Using this wet waste, the city is able to generate around 30-40 tonnes of compost, daily.
Rural Andhra Pradesh Achieves ODF Tag Before Its October 2018 Deadline
In the year 2016, when heavy rains hit the village panchayat of Mathyam in Chittoor district, ground water got contaminated with water from drainage. The outcome was obvious – outbreak of numerous diseases. Due to water logging, citizens were unable to go out in the open to defecate. During this period, a voluntary organistaion conducted an awareness program in the village focusing on safe sanitation practices and the pivotal role it plays in ensuring a healthy life. Having learnt about health hazards of open defecation, 38-year old A. Ramesh built a toilet at his home and then started working towards encouraging other to do the same. Being one of them, villagers would listen to him and understand his point of view as opposed to what government officials would tell them. From interacting with people and resolving their doubts related to using a toilet to counselling people, Ramesh’s close engagement with the community helped him overcome the challenge that rigid mindsets stuck to an age old practice poses. And in two years, the number of toilets in the panchayat rose from 45 to 506, making the district ODF.
While A. Ramesh went door-to-door and at common open defecation spots to spread awareness, nearly 100 girls studying in Andhra Pradesh’s Kasturba Gandhi Girls Residential School wrote letters to their parents asking them to build toilets at home otherwise they would not come home for the Makar Sankranti festival, a significant festival for the people of Andhra where it is customary for all the family members to gather and celebrate it with great pomp and show.
Similar inspiring individual, community and government endeavors helped rural areas of the state achieve ODF status in June, 2018, four months before its deadline of October 2018.
Talking to NDTV about steps taken to achieve ODF status, Mr. Babu says,
According to the baseline survey done in 2012, 71.03 lakh individual household toilets were required. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on October 2, 2014, Andhra’s sanitation coverage was 35.84 per cent which meant that some households had constructed toilets on their own. So, in 2014 we set the target of constructing 40 lakh toilets.
To acquire the ODF status, 37.76 lakh individual household toilets were constructed. Community toilets and public toilets were constructed for the houses that didn’t had space (around 2-2.5 lakh) to construct a toilet in their home premises. With this, 71.03 lakh households in 12,854 gram panchayats across 13 districts were declared ODF on June 7 this year.
The reason it took Swachh Andhra Corporation over three and a half years to achieve ODF status is the mindset of some people and lack of space. While lack of space was overcome by building community and public toilets, doctors were roped in to convince people to construct a toilet. Talking about the same, Mr Babu says,
Despite numerous counselling sessions, some people denied to get a toilet at home. They used to say, ‘We are comfortable in defecating in the open’, ‘We have been defecating in the open from past so many years, so why should we get a toilet now’, so on and so forth. For this, doctors used to explain to them it in monetary terms – the amount of money spent on medicines every year because of the diseases caused due to open defecation.
ODF Sustainability And Waste Management: The Way Forward For Rural Andhra Pradesh
In four years, the state has not only achieved ODF status, but has also initiated ODF plus activities as all gram panchayats aim to achieve ODF plus status by December 2018. In line with this goal, the corporation has formed a vigilance team that does regular monitoring by visiting common open defecation spots. To punish the offenders a unique name and shame policy, under which the violator’s name and photo is pasted on the wall, has been initiated. The corporation has a policy of fining violators. The fine amount ranges from Rs. 100 to Rs. 500.
Solid waste management (SWM) activities are being undertaken in 12,918 gram panchayats. As far as liquid waste management (LWM) is concerned, underground drainage/ oval shaped closed drains/ soak pits are being constructed on the basis of population of the village. 21 lighthouse projects are under consideration for GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio Agro Resources) Dhan scheme. The GOBAR-Dhan scheme which has been introduced to ensure better environment and generate wealth from waste and will see conversion of cattle dung and solid agricultural waste in farms to compost fertilisers, bio-gas and CNG.
Over a period of four years the state has come a long way and shown tremendous progress in terms of safe sanitation and waste management activities and plans. State’s swachh performance is evident with its improved performance in Swachh Survekshan. But is state’s target of first ODF plus state by January 2019 achievable? Swati Singh Sambyal, Programme Manager, Waste Management, Center for Science and Environment says,
It is not a silver bullet that it will just go. I really don’t know where all the historic waste will go if they plan to become ODF plus state, because such things take time. Even the cities of the country that have worked on the zero landfill model it has taken them 4-5 years and here we are talking about a state. Ideologically it is a nice idea but in practice it takes time.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.