- Mission Nirmal Bangla is West Bengal’s internal sanitation mission
- Between 2015 and 2017, seven out of 23 districts in West Bengal became ODF
- 76 out of 125 towns and cities have become ODF in the state
New Delhi: In West Bengal, sanitation became a priority in the early 2000s when local administrations were bestowed upon the responsibility to convince rural residents to build toilets. While never overtly successful in its sanitation mission, West Bengal’s sanitation coverage in 2014 was a respectable 60.28 per cent, better than many other states.
On November 2013, the state government of West Bengal announced its intentions to make rural West Bengal open defecation free (ODF) within five years. On April 2014, West Bengal launched Mission Nirmal Bangla, a comprehensive rural sanitation programme and with the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the state converged the efforts of the Central sanitation mission with that of its own. The objectives are similar to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan with priority on building of household, public and community toilets, and eradication of open defecation.
In terms of rural sanitation, the progress in West Bengal has been phenomenal. Over 50 lakh toilets have been built in rural districts in West Bengal, which is the highest number of toilets constructed across any state in the eastern region. The state did not have any ODF districts till 2015, but in two years, has managed to make seven districts completely ODF. Nadia was the first district to go ODF in 2015, with over 3.8 lakh toilets built. State level verification in three more districts of East and West Burdwan and Howrah is currently going on and the state is confident of declaring these three districts as ODF by end of October and seven more districts as ODF by the end of this year. All 2,158 villages situated near Ganga have attained the ODF status, under Namami Gange programme. The state has set August 2019 as the deadline for making all 23 districts ODF.
Sanitation has been a priority for the government and we have managed to not just construct toilets but make people aware of the importance of safe sanitation practices. The district administrations have used a combination of community led total sanitation, multiple awareness campaigns, walkathons etc. to help people realise the necessity of safe sanitation. That is what has translated into ground level success, said Sonali Datta Ray, Additional Mission Director, Mission Nirmal Bangla.
Indeed, involvement of communities, non-governmental organisations and arranging for unique awareness programmes has been the hallmark of Nirmal Bangla. In its quest to make Nadia ODF, information and communication activities were held across the district on a regular basis. In February 2015 a 122 kilometres long human chain with 2.17 lakh people was formed to create awareness on toilets and sanitation. Nadia’s success has also been praised by UNICEF for its focus on successfully bringing in behavioural change.
On the urban front too, West Bengal’s performance has been impressive. 76 out of the state’s 125 towns and cities have become ODF, and the state government has stated that 24 more are to join the list by December 2017, taking the total tally of ODF cities and towns to 100. Districts which require urgent sanitation intervention in their towns have been identified by the administration for construction of public toilet, community sanitation complexes and household toilets.
The state is well on track to achieve the ODF target by August 2019, as toilet construction is going on at breakneck speed in 13 remaining districts. With its toilet construction mission going well, West Bengal will be expected to go for the ODF plus status and sustain the behavioural changes the state has succeeded in bringing in among its rural and urban population.