- Kerala was the third state to be declared open defecation free
- Urban areas of Kerala will go ODF by this Rashtriya Swachhta Diwas
- This year the state has a target to go 100% waste free
New Delhi: Kerala has a swachh target set – every year, on November 1, which is also Kerala’s foundation day, the state aims to achieve something ‘Big’ in its Swachh mission. Last year, in 2016, the state which has majority of its population residing in rural areas declared its rural parts open defecation free and became the first high density populated state in the country to achieve such a target. This year, the state has set two targets – one to declare its urban parts open defecation free by October 2, 2017 and second to go 100% waste free. Currently, work is under progress and the state is expected to launch its first waste free plan by November 1.
Open Defecation Free – Kerala’s Journey
Kerala having a population of 3.3 crore was the third state to attain the title of open defecation free, it constructed more than 11 thousands toilets (11,165) in its Urban areas whereas around 2 lakh toilets (2,27,258) in its rural parts since the inception of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. In 2016, Kerala launched its own Swachh Bharat Mission initiative named Haritha Keralam in order to give a 100% push to swachhta in the state.
The success mantra for Kerala when it comes to construction of toilets is that the state made most of the toilets by adopting changes suiting local conditions. The construction of toilet became people’s movement, rather than just authorities’.
One of the advantages Kerala had over other states was the number of households without toilets in Kerala were way less. More than 97 percent houses in Kerala already had toilets, explains District Collector of Kannur District, Mir Mohammed Ali.
But, the challenge for the state was that majority of the houses without toilets were located in coastal and hilly areas of the state like Edamalakkudy in Idukki district and Kuttampuzha Range in Kerala’s Ernakulam district. Explaining how the state fought the circumstances, Gokul G.R., District Collector, Idukki said,
Difficult terrains, changing mindset of tribal people and getting them to construct toilets at their household were some difficult tasks, but, when we decided to go and work with them, the task became easy. Edamalakkudy is like a lonely planet, one has to travel through forest for a full day to reach there. A group of NCC cadets, NSS volunteers and students of an engineering college, went there, carried construction materials all by themselves and built the toilets and made it ODF.
Another example comes from Kuttampuzha Range in Kerala’s Ernakulam district that has around 9 tribal colonies, a forest officer—PG Sudha helped in building 497 toilets there in order to make these colonies ODF. Ms Sudha found out different ways to transport the construction material to the remote site which otherwise was a huge problem and succeeded in building toilets in these remote areas within the span of 3 months.
Looking at the Kerala rural ODF success, even urban parts have started constructing toilets in great speed, to accelerate Swachh efforts there. The target for all the cities to get ODF tag has been set for October 2, 2017 by the Urban Development Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra.
From Open Defecation Free To Waste Free Kerala
Kerala is upping its Swachh game with each passing day by taking various steps for effective waste management, currently, under the Green Protocol in Kerala, hotels have stopped the usage of plastic straws. Education board in the state has passed a mandate for students that they will only use fountain pen and not plastic pens. In Kannur, all hotels boast a scheme – bring your own tiffin box for takeaways and get extra 10 percent discount on your food bill simply to reduce disposable plastic usage among people.
The state is also promoting the concept of ‘Green Weddings’, where the usage of plastic and other non-degradable articles including disposable glasses and plates and thermocol decorations in the weddings are prohibited. Now, taking a step ahead, the government is also thinking of bringing in a new legislation to regulate and recycle e-waste, which poses a great threat to the environment nowadays.
Many initiatives like Green Wedding, banning straws in hotels were taken immediately after the state went ODF, however, on August 15 this year we decided to make Kerala free from waste. We have asked all the villages, gram panchayats, blocks to come up with solutions on how that area can reduce waste and go waste free. They have started submitting the plans that includes what actions they will take in their area if they want to go 100% waste free. People in Kerala segregate their waste, but, if the authorities are not collecting the waste in the segregated manner then the whole exercise is a waste. That’s why we have asked each of the blocks to submit the report. We are hopeful that by November 1, at least one waste free plan will take off, added Mir Mohammed Ali.
Because of these Swachh initiatives, Kerala is home to the first plastic-free district – Kannur and a city which has now become a model for effective waste management without a landfill, as Alappuzha has shown.