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Faced with space constraint, govt to build more public toilets in urban areas

The government has set a target of building 1.04 core household toilets in urban areas by 2019.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2016 12:57 IST
The government has set a target of building 1.04 core household toilets in urban areas by 2019.
The government has set a target of building 1.04 core household toilets in urban areas by 2019.(HT File Photo)

The government has re-cast the fund allocated for Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) to focus on building more public toilets and urinals, two key areas that can put a check to open defecation, with no space for building toilets in many urban poor households.

The urban development (UD) ministry has woken up to the major flaw in the scheme almost two years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched SBM to make India clean and open-defecation free by 2019. The government has set a target of building 1.04 core household toilets in urban areas by 2019.

The ministry had left out public toilets and urinals from the ambit of funding while apportioning a large chunk of the Rs 14,623 crore central share for constructing household toilets. Besides, a very small portion of central assistance was earmarked for building infrastructure to collect and process 1.70 lakh metric tonnes of waste that Indian cities produce every day.

The step to rework the funding pattern was taken after surveys carried out by state governments found that many households in cities and towns do not have the space to build toilets, driving them to defecate in the open.

The finance ministry on Wednesday approved extending 40% viability gap funding (VGF) or a system to bridge a shortfall in finances for the construction of public toilets and urinals. Earlier urinals were not included in the Swachh Bharat programme and public toilets were to be built by 100% private funding.

The Centre only provided 40% VGF for constructing community toilets.

The finance ministry has now approved increasing the quantum of central funds for building solid waste management projects to 35% from the existing 20%.

“It’s a midcourse correction. The recasting of allocation would provide nearly 75% higher central assistance for building public toilets and facilities for managing municipal solid waste,” a senior government official said.

The official said recasting of funds was done after the ministry realised that the private sector was not showing any interest in undertaking SWM projects.

The thrust on building public toilets and solid waste management comes following a review of the program by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 1. According to sources, unhappy with the progress, Modi directed the UD ministry to ensure that the government’s outreach doesn’t just focus on open defecation in cities but target urination in public places as well.

The PM also wanted that managing municipal waste should be put on high priority instead of just building household toilets.

The Centre’s share over a period of five years - for the urban leg of the program - is Rs 14,623 crore only, barely a quarter of the Rs 62,000 crore the scheme entails.

Of this, states have to contribute Rs 4,874 crore and the remaining amount has to be sourced from the private sector, additional resources from states/municipalities, beneficiaries share and levying user fee among others.