KOLKATA: West Bengal is well on its way to be the first State in the country to achieve open defecation free status by 2010 followed by Andhra Pradesh that is likely to achieve the target by 2013. Chhattisgarh is at the bottom of the list with the target year being 2022. Almost 80 per cent of the households in rural areas in West Bengal have been provided with toilets under the Total Sanitation Campaign of the Union Rural Development Ministry being implemented by the three-tier Panchayat, non-government organizations and women self help groups.
Of 1.2 billion people practicing open defecation, India’s share is a huge 665 million with 35 per cent rural schools not having toilets and 20 per cent lacking drinking water facilities.
People having little knowledge that 80 per cent of the diseases are related to lack of safe water and sanitation. Five of the 10 top killer diseases – Diarrhoea, Typhoid, Jaundice, Malaria and Schistosomiasis – are caused by unhygienic conditions. In the Indian context, 443 million school days are lost each year due to poor hygiene and sanitation that also affects girl’s enrolment in schools as lack of facilities for adolescent girls is a risk for their health, pride and dignity, as also security. Objective of campaign
The Campaign was launched to cover all households with water and sanitation facilities and promote hygienic behaviour for overall improvement of health of the rural population. More than Rs. 13,500 crore investment has been committed to reach full sanitation by 2012, which is also one of the Millennium Development Goal, though India could achieve only by 2016. And, massive awareness campaigns have yielded results with the National Family and Health Survey-III reporting 26 per cent rural sanitation coverage during 2005-06 that has now gone up to 54 per cent.
The sanitation coverage received a boost after the government introduced incentive scheme – Nirmal Gram Puraskar – award for clean village that is given to Panchayati Raj Institutions for eliminating open defecation. Already 30,245 Panchayati Raj Institutions have already applied for the award for 2008.Slipping back
However, according to survey conducted by UNICEF that provided technical support and capacity building facilities to the Panchayati Raj Institutions to promote sanitation, a large number of Nirmal Gram Award winning villages have slipped back to open defecation after receiving the award.
“We need to change the pattern of reward to ensure that sanitation is not a temporary target aimed only to win award,” says Lizette Burgers, Chief of Child Environment Programme (UNICEF).
Though 85 per cent households have access to individual, community or shared toilets, only around 66 per cent are using it as toilet. The reasons for non-use of toilets are largely marred with poor or unfinished installations, no super structure and no behavioural change among the people.
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