The city continues to bear the stigma of poor sanitation practices. As the number of slums goes on increasing with rise in population and economic activities, no step is taken to inculcate healthy toilet habit among the people.
While open defecation is still a common site in Silk City, lack of adequate public toilets aggravates the situation. And it has a profound effect of the health of children.
To deal with the issue and spread awareness about the ills of open defecation, Youth for Social Development (YSD), an NGO, organised a meeting recently.
“Of over 3.55 lakh population in the city, 1.17 lakh people accounting for 33 per cent live in slums. But, only three per cent of slum dwellers use community toilets,” said Bibhu Prasad Sahu, secretary of YSD at the meeting.
Sahu further said around 15 per cent of city households do not use any kind of toilet. Out of total 40 Wards in municipality area, 13 Wards have been provided 24 community toilets.
But more than half of the community toilets are in moribund condition with water facilities lying defunct, cleaning not taken up regularly and power not supplied regularly. Besides, six toilets that are maintained by the Berhampur Municipal Corporation are not used for the same problems.
Sahu said no step has been taken to spread awareness about the issue which is still considered a taboo in this part of the State.
At a BMC review meeting, Principal Secretary, Housing and Urban Development Department said their priority is to make Berhampur free of open defecation. It was decided at the meeting that measures will be taken to eradicate open defecation with construction of more community toilets.
But the steps taken by the BMC are not sufficient, said the locals as the budgetary provision for maintaining public toilets is very less.
The BMC gets only `37 lakhs for the purpose while Sulabh International was paid `98.44 lakhs for maintenance of 18 public toilets during 2000-2014.
Apart from maintenance of existing public toilets, BMC did not allocate any budget for construction of new toilets from 2000 to 2012. But, in 2012-13 and 2013-14, BMC sanctioned `10 lakhs and `30 lakhs respectively for the purpose.
More than 150 children from 22 slums and 22 children’s clubs also discussed the issue at the meeting. They resolved to pressurise the Berhampur Municipal Corporation to give priority to construct community toilets in all the slum areas. But, there has been no perceptible change in ground reality.
Sahu said it is time for social and cultural organisations in the city to launch a movement to stop open defecation. A healthy society can be built with hygienic practices. Changing a behaviour is an immense task, but it has to be taken up seriously to ensure a healthy future generation, Sahu added.