Down to Earth - - Wa­ter / San­i­ta­tion - SH­A­GUN KAPIL & RASHMI VERMA

IT WAS a gen­er­a­tional leap for­ward for In­dia last Oc­to­ber when it de­clared it­self Open Defe­ca­tion Free (ODF). But sus­tain­ing the suc­cess is harder than achiev­ing it. So, be­fore the eupho­ria even set­tled, the Union gov­ern­ment de­clared the sec­ond phase of the Swachh Bharat Mis­sion (SBM) called ODF Plus. This cam­paign is all about flush­ing vil­lages with ad­e­quate bud­get to take up solid and liq­uid waste man­age­ment, a gi­gan­tic task given that 100 mil­lion toi­lets have been con­structed over the last five years. With­out proper waste man­age­ment, the ODF sta­tus would mean noth­ing in terms of con­tain­ing con­tam­i­na­tion. There is also the threat of peo­ple slip­ping into their old habit of open defe­ca­tion.

ODF Plus is am­bi­tious. The gov­ern­ment claims that a ma­jor­ity of toi­lets in ru­ral In­dia are “twin pit leach pit” type, built by ar­rang­ing bricks in a honeycomb pat­tern. They are self-con­tained treat­ment plants and do not re­quire any ad­di­tional black wa­ter or fae­cal sludge man­age­ment. How­ever, by the gov­ern­ment’s own ad­mis­sion in its re­port, “From ODF to ODF Plus Ru­ral San­i­ta­tion Strat­egy 2019-2029”, the coun­try still has thou­sands of toi­lets with sin­gle-pits or sep­tic tanks that re­quire desludg­ing from time to time. These were ei­ther built dur­ing SBM-Gramin or un­der pre­vi­ous san­i­ta­tion pro­grammes. “To en­sure sus­tain­abil­ity in fu­ture, they may be retro­fit­ted as ap­pro­pri­ate,” says the re­port. Un­der this, all sin­gle-pit toi­lets have to be up­graded to twin-pit and soak pits have to be con­structed for sep­tic tanks. The guide­lines also call for desludg­ing sep­tic tanks ev­ery three to five years and treat the fae­cal sludge gen­er­ated at these off-site

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