When the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched in 2014, an Open Defecation Free (ODF) declared region was considered to be a ‘success’ as per the initial norms. However, three years into the campaign, today if a city doesn’t have its waste treatment techniques in place it considered to be lacking behind when it comes to hygiene and sanitation. A prime example of this is Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur city which was ranked 118 out of 434 cities in the Swachh Survekshan 2017 despite the city attaining the ODF title in December 2016. To improve the rankings in the next cleanliness survey, women in the city have come forward and volunteered to help the Guntur Municipal Corporation (GMC).
At present only 20 per cent of the households in the city practice waste segregation at source. To increase the number, the municipal body decided to first bring in a behavioral change before enhancing the existing waste treatment infrastructure. Self-Help Groups (SHGs), being an influential section of the society, were approached by the GMC to spread awareness on the cleanliness and sanitation.
There is a lack of awareness among people with regard to the linkage between health, hygiene and swachhta. More than 500 cases of malaria were recorded this year in the city due to stagnation of drains, water logging and poor hygienic conditions which promoted the breeding of mosquitoes. The appointed women will educate citizens about seasonal diseases, waste segregation and general cleanliness, says Dr Sobha Rani, Medical Health Officer, GMC.
Nearly 230 ‘Nagara Deepikas’ or sanitation officers are stationed in all 64 wards of the city who are responsible to keep the city clean by conducting door-to-door campaigns. Nagar Deepika will accompany two civic workers every morning for door-to-door waste collection rounds.
The workers will collect the dry and wet waste separately and if any family fails to give segregated waste then the sanitation officer will first demonstrate the waste segregation process, followed by giving out a pamphlet. The piece of paper will have a list of dry and wet garbage along with pictures to simplify the process. It will also have steps to prevent the spread of seasonal diseases.
The Nagara Deepikas will also regularly take rounds in their designated areas and look out for discarded items like plastic bottles, tyres, sacks and clothes which can be recycled or reused. In case of plastic items like bottles, plates, cups and polythene lying on streets, along with the collection they will also take sessions with nearby shopkeepers and vendors telling them the extent of damage plastic waste can do once they get trapped in the drains.
The GMC will soon start giving incentives to the volunteers to attract more participants. “The role of Nagar Deepikas is very important for our city if we want to increase our sanitation quotient by next year. Hence we plan on giving rewards to the women to dedicate their time in this initiative. We expect more than 500 women to join the awareness campaign,” says Ms Rani.