- All 53 urban local bodies of Sikkim have been declared ODF
- Over 70 public and community toilets have been built in the state
- Sikkim is looking to become the first ODF plus state in India
New Delhi: India’s poor sanitation scenario prior to 2014 had very few high points to boast of, but the open defecation free status of rural Sikkim was one of them. Rural Sikkim had managed to eradicate open defecation by December 2008 and was actively working to improve its urban sanitation scenario. The mountainous state is a favourite destination among domestic and international tourists. To improve public toilets has been a continuous agenda for the state government. After ten long years, Sikkim has finally managed to rid its urban areas of open defecation and is in the process, of becoming a completely open defecation free (ODF) state.
All of Sikkim’s urban local bodies (ULBs) have been declared as ODF by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the nodal authority for the urban wing of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. While individual households in rural Sikkim had the privilege of having toilets back in 2008, the number of public toilets in Sikkim’s 53 wards was low and would often prove to be A problem for tourists and residents alike, especially in busy areas like M.G. Road in Gangtok or tourist heavy areas like Pelling or Namchi. Improvement of urban sanitation was prioritiesed by the state government in 2014 and with the beginning of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the movement gained impetus as the work of urban local bodies was duly supported by the Abhiyan.
For Sikkim, sanitation in urban areas was a bigger problem than in rural areas, as rural sanitation had already improved to high levels. In urban areas, many ULBs did not have adequate funds to build or maintain toilets and would earlier show reluctance. With the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’s assistance the tide has turned towards urban sanitation in the last four years in Sikkim, said Tsewang G Bhutia, Sanitation Consultant, Swachh Bharat Urban, Sikkim.
In four years since the Abhiyan begun, 74 public and community toilets have been built by the ULBs of Sikkim. In the cities of Namchi, Pelling and Rangpo which witness heavy tourist traffic, many old public toilets were revamped by the ULBs. They have also placed a proper system of maintenance in place, where people pay a designated amount to use the toilet and the money is used for the toilet’s maintenance.
Unlike individual household toilets for which the house owner is the custodian, a public toilet belongs to the public. That said, ULBs have shown responsibility to ensure that public and community toilets remain clean and usable. We have seen instances of people not using toilets due to lack of cleanliness or water. Maintenance of toilets is one of the major reasons why urban Sikkim has successfully attained the ODF status, said Mr Bhutia.
Having solved its rural sanitation problem ten years back, and now with its newfound urban ODF status, Sikkim has already taken its first step towards becoming India’s first ODF plus state. The state has banned plastic and ensured 100% door-to-door waste collection. Two scientific landfills are also coming up in the northern and southern parts of the state, which will process waste and recycle it adequately.