The continued and widespread practice of open defecation is still a cause for concern in the State.

In the area of sanitation, the State government has taken new initiatives for making Tamil Nadu free of open defecation by 2015. One of them is Namma toilets.

Addressing a gathering of officials and activists at a workshop on sanitation strategies here, Chandrakanth Kamble, Commissioner of Municipal Administration (CMA), provided a gist of the features of the new type of public toilets based on a universal design, enabling all categories of users, including children, women, differently-abled and senior citizens to use them properly.

Users’ behaviour

Users’ behaviour should be ascertained before providing services and marketing them, he said, adding that receiving feedback from users was one of the salient features of the scheme.

Dwelling more on the scheme, officials at the CMA’s office say toilet units are being set up in and around slum colonies or at busy places such as bus stands.

The purpose of selection of slum colonies is to facilitate people to consider this facility a “neighbourhood family toilet.”

Asked about the usage of the toilets, the officials say that in Udhagamandalam town, on an average, 1,000 persons use them and the toilets have been established in six sites. Tambaram, where the inaugural toilet was commissioned in February 2013, has been witnessing 750 persons using the toilet every day. In other places, including Pollachi, Tiruchi, Coimbatore and Arcot, the number of users is in the range of 300 to 200.

Improper construction

In her address, Santha Sheela Nair, Vice-Chairperson of the Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission, said the failure of public toilets could be due to a variety of factors, including improper construction.

But, her emphasis was on behavioural change and she said that in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, the poor did not resort to open defecation.

No barrier

For her, low cost was no barrier for the success of public toilets. Ms. Nair, who held the posts of Rural Development Secretary of the State government and Secretary of the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, referred to Bangladesh where, she said, toilets built at a much lower cost had succeeded.

She suggested that the services of panchayat raj institutions and women’s self help groups be tapped to spread the message against open defecation.

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