Measures to make urban India open-defecation free

  • ODF sustenance in urban areas can be achieved after a number of ancillary factors related to sanitation are taken into consideration.
  • Regular monitoring of open spaces to discourage open defecation:
    • A strict and uncompromising clause of an ODF area is that at any point of time, no person should be seen defecating in the open.
    • Open spaces near railway tracks and slums should be developed to create gardens, playgrounds or any recreational space.
    • Conversion of open spaces into gardens or playgrounds also inculcates a sense of cleanliness among people habituated to defecating in the open, and compels them to use toilets.
  • Encouraging construction of own toilets:
    • Space in urban households is a major hindrance in construction of individual toilets.
    • In case of severe constraint, group toilets can be constructed where two-three households knowing each other well come together to build and use a toilet and contribute towards a city’s ODF sustenance.
    • Geo-tagging of toilets available in nearby areas, accessible from smartphones is a trend that is helping people discover toilets nearest to them.
    • In many cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai, toilets in petrol pumps, malls and restaurants have been allowed to be used by the public for nominal charges, ensuring that people who do not have access to a household or public toilet yet, can use alternatives available to them.
  • Ensuring uniform sewage disposal mechanisms across an ODF urban area:
    • Disposal of septage should be directly linked to sewage treatment plants, so as to ensure that the waste from the toilets go straight for treatment.
    • The Smart Cities Mission looks to connect the drainage systems of public and household toilets to sewage treatment plants, and smoothen the flow of septage.
  • Strengthening complaint redressal systems:
    • In an ODF city, instances of open defecation should be dealt with strictly.
    • A separate system of taking in and dealing with complaints related to open defecation, unclean open spaces and ill-maintained community and public toilets will help in the sustenance of a city’s ODF status.
    • Civic bodies in charge of building and maintaining toilets should also be responsible towards ensuring that breaching the ODF rule must be penalised accordingly.
  • Promoting ODF status of a city among residents:
    • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been repeatedly called out as a people’s movement.
    • The ODF tag for a city is a success for its residents, as much as it is for the civic body in charge. Residents must be made aware of the role they played in a city becoming ODF.
    • Civic bodies must promote the ODF tag of a city among residents and ask for their cooperation in maintaining the ODF status.
    • This can inculcate a sense of responsibility associated with cleanliness among the residents, and will motivate them to do their bit to maintain the ODF status of their city.

Efforts should be focused on harnessing social movements to create new social norms for ending open defecation while challenging deeply entrenched practices of caste, gender inequity and social exclusion. Advocacy to promote the installation of mass handwashing stations in schools and preschools to allow for daily handwashing exercises to teach good hygiene habits.