Swachh to target open urination too

Accessible, clean toilets will lead to behaviour change, says Mission Director

Under new norms, cities and towns wanting to be declared ODF+ (Open Defecation Free Plus) must also be free of public urination and not just open defecation. This is the first time that the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) is officially including the elimination of public urination in its agenda.

The rural division of SBM had previously said preventing public urination was not on their agenda.

The Mission is focussed on infrastructure and regulatory changes, on the assumption that this will lead to behaviour change.

“Cities are different from rural areas,” SBM-U mission director Vinod Kumar Jindal told The Hindu.

“In the case of urban areas, the problem is not one of usage, but of availability...In cities, if toilets are available, accessible and clean, people will automatically use them rather than using the road.”

Sustainability is key

The ODF+ and ODF++ protocols, which were released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs last week, are the next step for the SBM-U and aim to ensure sustainability in sanitation outcomes.

The original ODF protocol, issued in March 2016, said, “A city/ward is notified as ODF city/ward if, at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating in the open.” So far, 2,741 cities have been certified as ODF, based mostly on third-party verification of toilet construction.

The new ODF+ protocol, issued last week, says that a city, ward or work circle could be declared ODF+ if, “at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets are functional and well-maintained.”

The ODF++ protocol adds the condition that “faecal sludge/septage and sewage is safely managed and treated, with no discharging and/or dumping of untreated faecal sludge/septage and sewage in drains, water bodies or open areas.” “Urination has always been implied as part of the ODF agenda,” said Mr. Jindal. “That’s why there is a subsidy for urinals, not just toilets.” However, he admits that third-party verification of ODF areas, being carried out by the Quality Council of India, has not so far checked for public urination. That will be done under the ODF+ protocol, he said.

“It is currently impractical to include urination,” said Nitya Jacob, a water and sanitation policy expert. He pointed out that public urination, especially by men, is almost entirely a behaviour change issue. Even men who have access to toilets use the roads as a public urinal.

Mr. Jindal disagrees. “In urban areas, no one wants to do it. They are forced to do it because of the lack of clean toilets,” he said, emphasising the need for cleanliness, accessibility and visibility. The ODF+ protocol lays down 20 specific conditions across cleanliness, support infrastructure, accessibility and operations and maintenance.

The Mission is also pushing forward in its drive to get public toilets listed on Google Maps. A search for “toilets near me” will now display the location of public toilets in over 700 cities, and allow users to rate and review them. “If people can easily find a public toilet, they will not use the road,” said Mr. Jindal.

The SBM-U does have a 10% budget for IEC activities (Information, Education and Communication) using both digital media and on-field activities such as street dramas, of which about a hundred were done last year across the country. However, the Mission is not depending on such awareness activities for behaviour change. “In urban areas, behaviour change is automatically guaranteed if there is access,” said Mr. Jindal.

The Mission’s monitoring of behaviour change is currently limited to the Swachh Survekshan surveys which include physical observation — that no one is defecating in the open at the time of the verification team’s visit — and citizen feedback. A national sample-based survey is also being planned for urban areas, said Mr. Jindal.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 9:39:22 AM |

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