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Sustainable sanitation in Raipur District

"Eik Praya Hammar Sughhar Gaon Dondekhurd" meaning 'An initiative to our clean gram panchayat (GP)' is a village level programme under which various activities are currently being carried out in Dondekhurd.  Inspired by the campaign of Amitabh Bachchan and Anushka Sharma, each Sunday, people in Dondekhurd GP combine sanitation and cleaning activities with a rally named as Darwaza Band (which literally means close the door), to motivate people to use toilets. As a part of the same programme, on 11th June voting was conducted during which more than 600 people voted to identify people who were still defecating in the open.   As many as 250 GPs which had already been declared ODF participated in the Swachhata Matdaan. Going by such and other novel interventions that are being carried out by the district administration of Raipur in Chhattisgarh, the district will be declared open defecation free (ODF) well before the targeted date of 15th August, 2017. “Our focus all along has been on demand creation of toilets. Essentially our aim is to make toilet a priority for everyone and in this regard we have carried out various programmes using Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach to bring about the desired behavior change,” said CEO, Zilla Panchayat, Raipur, Mr. Nileshkumar Kshirsagar.   He believes that changing behaviour before the actual construction of toilets together with active community participation will lead to sustainable transformation of the community.

It is common knowledge that women are central to improving the well-being of children and achieving lasting change in society.  Bearing this in mind, in their approach, the district officials appeared to illustrate the adage, “Teach a woman and you teach a generation.”  Although the initial awareness building programme using the CLTS approach was meant for the whole community, it made a lasting impact on the women.  This was obvious when women formed ODF brigades which kept vigil from as early as 4 AM on common open defecation sites to check people who went there to relieve themselves. They went on to demand from their husbands that toilets are built within their homes. Significantly, in Raipur an active network of Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) has been established under National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).   Under this, a group of 10-12 women form a group and begin a saving programme.  As demand for toilets was created, women SHG member inter loaned for the purpose of the toilet constriction.  In Budera GP in Aarang Block, 80% of women are attached to SHGs and have done inter loaning for building of toilets. Further, once the message that sanitation is critically linked to health, dignity of women and overall well being of the community was conveyed effectively through various IEC materials, the district refused to provide any government incentive upfront to the communities.  “We told them it was their duty and right to build toilets and use them.  After all, it was their health they were protecting.  Significantly, this helped in ensuring usage of toilets.  People were keen to use something they had paid for as opposed to something that was given freely. In the nutshell our aim was to make sanitation a truly mass movement,” the CEO said.  Paying incentives following 3 months of usage and ODF verification thereafter, was among the most effective strategies employed by Raipur. Even as they succeeded in making toilet a priority for every family, a new challenge arose.  The toilet model that is being promoted widely is the twin pit toilet which is best suited to rural areas.  Not only does it cost less to construct, it uses less space and at the same time effectively treats toilet waste, converting it into rich manure.  However, people were under the impression that low cost leach pit toilets were ineffective in the long run and that big septic tanks were better; a result of some masons promoting the same for economic interests.

To address this, inspired by the pit emptying activity done by the Secretary, MDWS, a similar exercise was carried out in Sarfonga GP that saw the participation of Mr. Robert Chambers and Mr. Jamie Myres of Institute of Development Studies (IDS) UK.  This demonstration carried out at different locations had a very positive impact on all stakeholders. Further, SHGs such as Shiv-Sakti Mahila Samuh from Beldar Shivani GP in Tilda Block are selling manure from toilet pits at Rs 50 per kilogram.  Such manure is also being used for plantation activity to make people more aware of its properties that can enhance plant growth.