KARNATAKA

A park to show hygiene is indispensable

ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND: Different models of toilets at the Sanitation Park in Sargur of Heggadadevankote taluk in Mysore district.

ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND: Different models of toilets at the Sanitation Park in Sargur of Heggadadevankote taluk in Mysore district.  

Shankar Bennur

It is meant to bring a sustained behaviourial change among rural communities on sanitation

MYSORE: When the topic is of parks, and it is only well-manicured parks and IT-BT parks that you can think of, then you should visit Sargur in Heggadadevankote taluk of Mysore district. For, here is a park which beats all the parks in the country. Probably, no other place can boast of a park that Sargur has. The park called Sanitation Park is located on the premises of the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital at Sargur village about 18 km from Heggadadevankote.

Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), Mysore, has, with the support of the Government and WaterAid agency through its “Nairmalya Vahini” project, been taking various steps since 1999 to achieve sustained behaviourial change among the people with respect to rational use of water, consumption of safe drinking water, environmental sanitation and personal hygiene.

As a part of these efforts, the Sanitation Park was constructed. The park has various kinds of toilets for demonstration, and to facilitate people to pick a particular model for their use.

At the park, one can check out the different toilets to suit one’s budget and space. Every aspect has been taken into consideration during the construction of these models, including the availability of water, construction expenses, user-friendliness, space, size of the family, income, cleanliness and hygiene.

“Sanitation still receives low priority among the rural community. Nevertheless, there has been a gradual improvement with respect to awareness about water sanitation and personal hygiene practices as evidenced by greater community mobilisation in our project activities during the last five years,” SVYM president and chief executive officer R. Balasubramaniam told The Hindu.

The organisation believes in the fact that hygiene is indispensable in rural life. Therefore, to create awareness through training programmes and workshops, the concept of Sanitation Park was introduced.

The percentage of the use of toilets in Heggadadevankote taluk, one of the backward taluks in the State, in 2001-02 was only 12. “The aim of the park was to increase the usage of toilets in the taluk,” he said.

Due to lack of awareness, illiteracy and ignorance, rural people seldom use toilets. They are not aware of the advantages and importance of toilets and have several preconceived notions about them, he said.

The SVYM project team, during visits to the villages, discovered that the villagers’ most popular notion is that construction of toilets is a costly affair and that a toilet in the house poses health problems.

“The best way to create awareness about sanitation among them was to come up with the Sanitation Park and demonstrate its importance,” said Dr. Balasubramaniam, who undertakes investigation on health in the office of the Lokayukta in Bangalore.

As a result, the use of toilets has reached 46 per cent in Heggadadevankote. “Nearly 4,000 families, inspired by the park, now have toilets of their own,” he said and added that 8,000 beneficiaries have visited the park and have benefited from it.

There are various models of toilets in the price range of Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 13,000. There is an opportunity for people to choose the kind of toilet that best suits their budget. For places where there is scarcity of water, there are toilets that are environment friendly.

Importantly, the park gives information on the different systems of collection and distribution of waste. In organic farming, this waste is re-utilised in the form of manure and medicine.

For visually challenged

Interestingly, another speciality of the park is that there are toilets for the benefit of the visually challenged too. “The visually challenged, who attended a training programme organised by the institute, shared their experiences. Based on their experience and opinion, 50 special toilets have been constructed for them,” said Dr. Balasubramaniam, who is a member of the Karnataka Vision Group 2020.

There are also various models of septic tanks, constructed from bricks, stones and mud. Depending on the size of the family, two types of septic tanks are available — direct septic tank and double septic tank.

People can get information about this from the organisation, which has opened a section called “Nairmalya Vahini” at Sargur.

There are 30 members in the section to educate people. The objective is to create awareness in each and every village regarding sanitation and the construction of toilets.

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