Millennium Post

Aspiring for ODF plus tag

A status update on how some states are pursuing holistic cleanliness

Modi government 2.0 will soon declare the country open defecation free (ODF) since it already has achieved a toilet coverage of 99.25 per cent. And, then it will set another challenge for all states.

The government machinery and non-governmental players have been working to make Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) a success. Since mere construction of toilets is not sufficient to promote holistic cleanliness in the community, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) launched the ODF Plus campaign.

It includes regular availability and usage of toilets, management of solid and liquid waste, cleanliness of water resources, maintenance of public and household toilets and awareness of personal hygiene. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan's guidelines also mention that after a village or district has secured the ODF status, efforts must be made to transition the village/district into an ODF plus one.

Considering this emphasis, many ODF states are already trying to secure the ODF Plus tag. State governments have already made plans to achieve ODF Plus activities.

Sikkim, one of the first in the country to attain open-defecation free status for its rural population is a pioneer in managing plastic waste and has now decided to start composting.

Himachal Pradesh, which ranked second in achieving ODF status, is now striving to climb the ladder. The state formulated a mechanism to deal with solid and liquid waste. It includes constructing soak pits and underground channels for liquid waste management and adopting a cluster approach for solid waste.

Different clusters of 10-12 gram panchayats have been identified. Each will have waste collection at source, effective management, and disposal of waste. While plastic waste will be collected and sent to industries for recycling, organic waste will be converted into compost.

Uttarakhand, too, came up with a plan to get its hands on the ODF Plus tag. The state made an announcement and disbursed Rs 5 lakh to all 125 gram panchayats to develop their existing solid and liquid waste management systems.

The state's villages will soon have community soak pits, compost pits, a segregation centre and separate sewage line for liquid waste. Gram panchayats have submitted a detailed project report that states the cost, manpower and infrastructure required for the ODF Plus mission.

Since Uttarakhand is a hilly region, the distance between households is very high. Collecting and transporting waste every day is economically not feasible as the user fee is not enough. Besides, the households generate negligible dry waste so selling or recycling it is not an option. To overcome these challenges, the authorities will treat the waste of 4-5 gram panchayats together.

Gujarat has also successfully climbed the first ladder and will soon deploy efficient ODF Plus-like activities. However, under National Rurban Mission, around 3,311 villages were selected in 2016 and they got two separate systems for disposal of solid waste and wet-dry garbage. This was further utilised to recycle and make compost fertiliser.

Southern states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are also trying to be ODF Plus. In India, 964 lakh toilets made nearly 5.6 lakh villages ODF. These villages will need to focus dedicatedly on sustainability, cleanliness of toilets and solid and liquid waste management to reach the next stage.

This may hold challenges such as land availability for solid-liquid waste management, skilled and unskilled labour, community acceptability, and operation and maintenance issues. Although states are putting a reasonable amount of effort to ensure public participation and bring about a change in people's mindset, still lot more needs to be done on the ground in terms of planning and execution of ODF Plus objectives.

(The co-author of this piece may be reached at Views expressed are strictly personal)

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