ROURKELA: OPEN defecation in Rourkela remains a major cause of worry for Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) , which recently found a place among the list of smart cities.
With a sizable slum population of the Steel City still opting for defecating in the open, the RMC has initiated multi-pronged steps to get rid of the practice. The Corporation faces a tough challenge to bring in attitudinal change in the slum dwellers and successfully tide over operational difficulties linked to individual household latrines (IHHL), community latrines and hybrid latrines (mix of community and public latrines).
Sources said there are 3.2 lakh people in about 61,000 households in areas under RMC limits. About 34,000 households are located across 126 large to small slum pockets, taking the headcount to about 1.5 lakh. While no credible data is available on the number of people resorting to open defecation, the practice is visible at almost all the 126 slums.
Taking it as a challenge under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Corporation has intensified efforts for generating awareness through hoardings, public contact exercises and plying of awareness vans to enhance use of toilets and prevent spread of diseases caused by faecal contamination. On the other hand, construction of IHHLs, community and hybrid toilets is underway.
Sources said the RMC had received about 14,000 applications for construction of IHHLs, but 5,000 applications fulfilling the criteria were shortlisted and work orders issued.
RMC Commissioner AK Mallick said about 200 IHHLs have been completed and NGO volunteers have been engaged with offer of remuneration to supervise and verify construction of rest of the IHHLs. The RMC has a target to set up 90 community toilets and hybrid toilets of which 20 have been completed, but only about six slums have tube-well facilities. Mallick said efforts are underway to ensure running water to these toilets and a few hybrid toilets of RMC and several others owned by Sulabh International are already working. Stating that about 20,000 people defecate in the open, Mallick said after ensuring adequate awareness and related infrastructure, the practice of open defecation would be made punishable.
Former municipality chairman and BJP spokesperson Ramesh Chandra Bal claimed that about 60 per cent of households in slums lack individual toilets. Conservatively, nearly 80,000 slum residents still defecate in the open with running water remaining a major problem for success of toilets. He hoped the water issue would be sorted out on completion of various water supply projects.