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Open Defecation Free UP: Will Yogi Adityanath’s October 2018 Deadline End State’s Sanitation Woes?

Uttar Pradesh has 59,000 gram panchayats and nearly 1 lakh villages in the state. Can it achieve the ambitious target set by Chief Minister Adityanath to be open defecation free by 2018?

Ganga Is Everyone’s Mother, People Must Protect Her: Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath
  • The state has more than 1 lakh villages
  • Uttar Pradesh's performance in Swachh Bharat has been unsatisfactory
  • Even the urban areas in the state have under performed

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has set an ambitious deadline of October 2018 to make the state, including its 59,000 gram panchayats open defecation free (ODF). The announcement came at an event, organised on the occasion of ‘Panchayati Raj Diwas.’ Uttar Pradesh, which has 1,07,452 villages in the state has a dismal record of sanitation coverage in its villages, which have not seen an improvement despite the over 2 years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Even in urban areas, Uttar Pradesh has not been able to perform well as no city has become open defecation free yet.

We have resolved to totally free the state of the habit of open defecation by October 2018, said Yogi Adityanath.

Earlier on March 20, the Chief Minister had asked senior state government officials to ensure that 30 districts in the state are open defecation free. A state government release asked the government officials to take a sanitation pledge and ensure that the pledge is implemented.

Uttar Pradesh’s performance in the sanitation scenario has not improved much since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched in 2014. A 2016 survey carried out by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) ranked Uttar Pradesh among one of the poorest performers in terms of sanitation condition in rural areas. As of February 2016, UP had received 2,128,012 applications for household toilets, of which only 268,791 had been constructed. Only 7.26 per cent of the state’s villages are open defecation free.

UP had received 2,128,012 applications for household toilets

UP had received 2,128,012 applications for household toilets

Even the urban areas in the state have failed to board the Swachh bandwagon and lagged behind in terms of sanitation and eradication of open defecation. The Ministry of Urban Development ranked state capital Lucknow as 28th among 70 Indian cities surveyed, in terms of cleanliness and toilet facilities, while other cities of the state like Ghaziabad, Agra and Varanasi were ranked 45th, 47th and 65th.

The cities in Uttar Pradesh did not fare well in the Swachh rankings

The cities in Uttar Pradesh did not fare well in the Swachh rankings

A major challenge for the Uttar Pradesh government will be eradicating the practice of open defecation in villages situated along the banks of the river Ganga. Ganga, which flows through 1,140 kilometres in the state, through some of the state’s major villages, towns and cities has achieved the status of being one of the most polluted rivers due to rampant practice of open defecation and waste disposal in the river. As per data from the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Uttar Pradesh has 955 gram panchayats and 1,847 villages near Ganga. Installing household toilets in each of these villages and ensuring proper piped water supply will be a challenging task for the Chief Minister Adityanath’s government.

For the villages situated near Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, much of the work related to toilet construction has already been done by the Union Government, lessening some pressure on the state government. Under the Namami Gange programme, the goal of declaring all the 5,169 villages along the river in five states, as open defecation free by December 2017 is on track. Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that so far 75 per cent of the villages along Ganga have become ODF. The task for the rest of the villages spread across the state however, remains a difficult mission to execute.

The Prime Minister has said that when we talk about smart cities we should also talk about smart villages. All the 59,000 gram panchayats will be connected with the process of modernisation that has got underway today and made smart, added the Chief Minister.

Ever since Yogi Adityanath assumed office of Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, he has laid emphasis on bettering the state’s performance in the Swachh Bharat parameter. Appalled at the sight of stains in walls, the Chief Minister banned the use of pan and tobacco products in schools, colleges, hospitals and other government buildings. The Chief Minister also picked up a broom to clean his own office in the state legislature to lead by example. Chief Minister Adityanath has also assured complete cooperation to Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti towards the Namami Gange programme’s objective of cleaning up Ganga. What remains to be seen is how much of the Chief Minister’s resolve is translated into transforming a massive state like Uttar Pradesh into an open defecation free one.

The target is achievable but certain factors need to be kept in mind. Firstly, the technology to make the toilets usable must be implemented all across the state. Secondly, water supply is a must for all the toilets, without which they become unusable. Ensuring water supply for all toilets in a state like UP is definitely going to be challenging. Thirdly, and most importantly, the government should build the consciousness among people and convince them to use the toilets to eradicate open defecation, said Avinash Kumar, Director, Program and Policy, WaterAid India.

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