Odisha Channel Bureau
Bhubaneswar: On the occasion of the World Toilet Day, 2020, a day to hold governments and those managing the sanitation system accountable for acts of commission and omission, we are once again reminded of the huge gap between intent and reality.
At a time when every part of the world and country is in the grips of an ever-growing pandemic and with 4.2 billion people across the world living without access to safely managed sanitation the Day has been marked by a sense of urgency and collective resolve to address the sanitation crisis.
Speaking about this, Chandrama Behera, Community Management Committee (CMC) member, Barabhuja said: “We do not have male earning member in the family and it becomes very difficult to afford desludging and moreover being an elderly person, I find it difficult to get it done and therefore on behalf of entire community, I urge the authorities to ensure safe sanitation for us.”
Recognising the urgency of the situation, Suvendhu Sahoo, DC, Sanitation, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) stated that World Toilet Day, 2020 holds great significance as BMC is now moving firmly and surely towards the goal of safe sanitation for all.
Flagging off the small cesspool vehicle for desludging the pits in households, located in hard to reach slums and pockets of the city, Sahoo said “now with the community – facilitated by CFAR – ready to partner with the Corporation to ensure that every household gets their pits desludged periodically and the BMC having the wherewithal to reach and service these households, we feel that a dream has come true and we are now confident of ensuring safe sanitation for all.”
He went on to add that with Bhubaneswar being recognized as the second city in the world to be ISO certified for fecal sludge and septage management, BMC is determined to sustain and better its track record of being inclusive and responsive to the less privileged sections of society. Taking this forward, he said that “with people’s participation we have achieved open defecation free status for our Bhubaneswar city. Let’s resolve to ensure a sustainable system around us for a clean environment and healthy life of our citizen.”
Reinforcing this Ansuman Rath, Zonal Dy Commissioner, South East, BMC, likened swachhata to a journey and said that “every single day, we are getting closer to the goal of safe and universal sanitation” and exhorted everyone observing the World Toilet Day 2020 “to resolve to ensure Swachh Bharat & Swachh Bhubaneswar.”
Affirming the need for BMC and community to work in a coordinated manner, Soumya Mishra, State Lead, CFAR, stated that this level of synergy between BMC and the community did not happen overnight. Explaining this, she said “it has taken over a year to shape it and this included building awareness on safe containment, regular desludging by registered operators and then developing schedules to the satisfaction of the community and the providers.” She went on to state that the “entire process of building awareness and strengthening community engagement has been spearheaded by the Single Window team comprising of community representatives from the different slums and federated at the ward level and the field team of CFAR.”
This initiative was part of the project being implemented by CFAR with the support of Water for Women Fund, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government, she added.
Speaking about the role that the Single Window Forum members played, Laxmipriya Lenka, Nirankari Nagar said that when they decided to address the issue and map the route for the desludging operators from the settlement to the treatment plant, “we did not think it will be of any use to us but now we are happy that BMC has heard us, decided to provide us the service and we will be able to desludge our pits properly and at reasonable cost.”
Agreeing with Laxmipriya, Bhargavi Das, Mani Nageswari Basti welcomed the initiative and said that “now we are cleaning our pits with BMC cesspool vehicles, at a much lesser price and this is something that an elderly person like me never thought was possible.”
Recounting the terrible experiences, they had with private vehicles and operators for desludging, Jayanti Moharana, Bhagabati Basti said that everything from paying huge amounts of money for desludging especially during rainy season to dealing with the operators and having no other options to address the issue of overflowing pits was extremely discouraging for them. It is in this context that she stressed the point that “we are now very relieved that the BMC vehicle will come and desludging will be done properly and at rates we can afford.” She went on to add that community involvement and the consistent facilitation by CFAR has helped to make this happen.
Building on this point, Samir Ranjan Dash, City Project Manager, CFAR, stated that “given the fact that safe sanitation cannot be achieved without community engagement, CFAR along with Single Window Forum and Community Management Committee members not only prepared the route map but also with the support of BMC and E &Y reached out the desludging services to 665 households in these 53 settlements and in many ways proved that it is not only possible but is also something the community is looking for and expecting from BMC.’’
Deepak Ranjan Nag, FSSM Expert, E& Y noted that “with 4.2 Billion, people worldwide living without access to safely managed sanitation and climate change posing new threats to the sanitation system, it is essential that we develop sustainable sanitation systems including reuse waste to improve agriculture and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.”
Akhaya Sagar, CEO, Odisha Rising Foundation complimented CFAR and BMC for organising the World Toilet Day and said that he was “encouraged to see the great work been done so far in the space of WASH and look forward to being part of it.”