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Building toilets not enough, ensure that people use them, says study

Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh account for around 60% of people who defecate in the open, and unless they clean up their act, the fight against open defecation appears headed towards failure.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2017 21:38 IST
Press Trust of India, New Delhi
Open-defecation,Toilets,ODF
Bihar has to build toilets for around two crore families and at the moment, says the CSE study, it has the poorest record in terms of rural sanitation.(File)

Toilets may be coming up at a “breakneck speed” to make India open-defecation free by 2019, but a poor utility rate, with cases where they are being used as store houses for fodder, means the country might fall way short of the goal, a study has found.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in an analysis, has found Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh wanting in terms of creating awareness on using the toilets by incentivising behavioural change.

These four states account for around 60% of people who defecate in the open in India, and unless they clean up their act, the country’s fight against open-defecation appears headed towards failure, the NGO said.

“It is one thing to build toilets, quite another to ensure they’re being used. Besides motivating people to change, concrete steps will have to be taken. These include repairing or rebuilding of unusable toilets, and incentivising behavioural change,” CSE director general Sunita Narain said.

According to the study, Bihar fares the worst among the four poor performers. The state has to build toilets for around two crore families and at the moment, says the CSE study, it has the poorest record in terms of rural sanitation.

Sushmita Sengupta, the lead researcher behind the CSE study, said Bihar has focused on building toilets at a “breakneck speed”, without making people aware of them, and without ensuring that these toilets are functional and are used.

“Of the 16 lakh toilets built under the campaign in Bihar, 50% were completed in the fiscal year 2016-17. But against the 8 per cent that was allocated for intensive IEC (information, education and communication) programme, only 0.18% was spent in 2016-17,” she said.

Bihar has converted less than 1% of the total dysfunctional toilets in the country into functional ones, she added.

In case of UP, which built around 17.41 lakh toilets in 2016-17, usage has not picked up due to slow disbursal of funds, rampant corruption, and lack of basic necessities like water, especially during summers, the CSE said.

Odisha, where only 40% of the 90 lakh families living in rural areas have access to toilets, has some districts that have achieved 100% coverage but many of the toilets are being used as store houses for fodder.

The picture is relatively better in Jharkhand with 53% families having access to toilets, and about 73% of the 4,402 village panchayats are part of various awareness campaigns on the issue of rural sanitation.

“The real success of the drive to make India open defecation-free can only be measured by the number of people who find it worthwhile to use the toilets that we are building. Our report suggests that it is imperative to educate communities (for whom these toilets are being built), build provisions for better wastewater and solid waste management, and focus on re-use and recycling to achieve tangible results,” Narain said.

First Published: Aug 31, 2017 21:18 IST