Out of the 5,169 villages situated on the banks of Ganga across all the states, 4,085 of them have already been declared open defecation free (ODF). This is seen as a major development under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Namami Gange projects, as eradicating open defecation across near the Ganga will lessen the flow of direct faecal sludge to the river and stem the ongoing pollution of the river. Already struggling to cope with the existing levels of pollution, for years, the Ganga has witnessed rampant open defecation along its bank, across the 5 major states it flows through. The flow of faecal waste to the Ganga has remained unchecked for years, till the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan stepped up for the construction of toilets across the villages on the river banks.
The Ganga flows through the five states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Being situated in different states, the ODF work across the five states had progressed sluggishly till the end of 2016 due to differences in cooperation from respective state governments, floods in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the legislative assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh. In total, only 700 out of the over 5000 villages along the river in the five states were ODF in 2015, a success rate of mere 13.5 per cent. Till December 2016, Uttar Pradesh managed to declare only 33 of its 1,847 villages open defecation free. Since the beginning of 2017, the ODF mission in Ganga basin villages picked up steam, resulting in nearly 79 per cent of the target being achieved, even before the first half of 2017 has ended.
The performance of all the five states has been satisfactory in the mission, with Uttarakhand being the best and Bihar being the worst performer. Uttarakhand, which has 266 villages situated along the Ganga has managed to eradicate open defecation from 264 villages, a success rate of 99.55 per cent. Uttar Pradesh, which has 1,847 villages situated along the river has managed to eradicate open defecation from 1,542 villages, a success rate of 83.5 per cent. West Bengal’s performance has been remarkable, considering it has the largest number of villages along the river. Out of 2,158 villages, 2,096 have been declared ODF, a big success rate of 97.13 per cent.
Jharkhand has managed to eradicate open defecation from 90 of its 103 villages along the river, achieving a success rate of 87.67 per cent. The only state to slightly under perform has been Bihar, which has eradicated open defecation from 550 of its 795 villages. Though the numbers for Bihar are not bad, its success rate of 69.80 per cent is lower when compared to the percentages of the other states.
We had some difficulty from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in terms of cooperation initially. Till mid-2016, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had only 2.70 per cent and 3.67 per cent ODF coverage in villages along the banks. Within a year, the coverage has increased and nearing completion. The villages along Ganga becoming ODF are a big achievement for both Swachh Bharat and Namami Gange, said Samir Sinha, Spokesperson, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation.