More Toilets Fail to Reduce Defecation in Open: Study

Published: 22nd October 2015 04:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2015 04:32 AM   |  A+A-

BHUBANESWAR: Even as the number of hoEven as the number of household toilets has gone up substantially in recent years, the improved sanitation coverage does not seem to have effected proportionate reduction in open defecation in Odisha.

Despite having toilets or latrines in their houses, a substantial chunk of population in rural Odisha continues to prefer open defecation for different factors ranging from improper construction of the sanitation facilities to socio-cultural and behavioural aspects.

Poor quality and inappropriate single latrine design made available to rural people under Government sanitation schemes have contributed to their non-use. Socio-cultural and behavioural factors like purification beliefs and rituals, resistance to change and the thought that these are exclusive facility for women members are major constraints to universalisation of latrine use, a study by international researchers has revealed.

The study carried out by experts from the Environmental Health group, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University Atlanta, USA and Department of Civil and Environment Engineering, University of California in Puri district has  focused on addressing behavioural barriers along with providing proper infrastructure to ensure maximum adoption of the toilet.

Toilet Trouble

2 Despite having toilets in their houses, a substantial chunk of population in rural Odisha continues to prefer open defecation 

2 The factors range from improper construction of sanitation facilities to socio-cultural and behavioural aspects

2 Poor quality and inappropriate single latrine design made available to people under Govt schemes have contributed to their non-use

Odisha is among the lowest performing States in terms of latrine coverage. Worse still, even in some high coverage villages with more than 83 per cent household latrines,  nearly 50 per cent of the population defecated in open. An evaluation of the Total sanitation Campaign (TSC) in Puri district has found that 37 per cent of members of households with latrines reported to have never used them.

While traditional habits and socio-cultural barriers may be contributing to the present day situation, flaws in TSC programme design and implementations were also responsible. Government subsidised latrines were mostly found unfinished. Though pronounced complete as per Government standards, the units lacked a proper roof, door, adequate walls and any provision for water supply or storage. The space in these units was limited which hindered squatting to an extent that people habituated with free open environment were put off.

Lack of water in the latrine or near it was also a big hindrance as people here have an elaborate process of cleaning with water post-defecation. Long-term habits, socialising, sanitation rituals and daily routines varying with caste, gender and marital status, age and lifestyle also accounted for low adoption.

The study led by Parimita Routray of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published in the BMC Public Health Journal, however, noted that the interest in construction of latrines was rising among family heads and decision makers, who were becoming more concerned about privacy of female members, especially newly-wed daughter-in-law. But the male members largely refrained from using them as they were free to move outside and relieve themselves.


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