Rourkela loses ODF ++ tag as slum dwellers revert to open defecation

Besides, 40 of the 55 public toilets were equipped with hand driers and sanitary vending machines for women.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.(Express Illustration)

ROURKELA: Rourkela has lost its open defecation free (ODF) ++ certification after residents of various slum pockets reverted to the practice of going to the toilet outside.

After many years of sustained efforts to curb open defecation in the steel city, Rourkela was accorded ODF status under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in December 2018 and by February 2020, it received ODF ++ tag. In the latest Swachh Survekshan, the city has been demoted to ODF status.

Sources said the fight against open defecation lost steam more than a year back after most of the community and public toilets started facing operational issues. There are around 65 community toilets for slum residents with operation and maintenance responsibilities vested on the local communities or women's self-help groups (WSHGs). A sizeable amount of these toilets have become dilapidated and are unusable due to lack of running water or regular cleaning.

Besides, 40 of the 55 public toilets were equipped with hand driers and sanitary vending machines for women. Now most of these machines are lying defunct, while cleanliness has deteriorated with the private agencies/WSHGs remaining aloof.

Of the more than 6,200 individual household latrines (IHHLs) constructed in Rourkela under the SBM, unspecified number of IHHLs were demolished by the authorities of South Eastern Railway (SER). Besides, many slum households have constructed IHHLs without septic tanks and are directly releasing faecal sludge into drains. These apart, numerous modular toilets were installed at parks and playgrounds of Rourkela Municipal Corporation (RMC) and along roads. But these modular toilets are kept locked most of the time. The very few which open for public use are not cleaned regularly.

General secretary of Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) Biren Senapati said many slum dwellers residing along the 10-km stretch of the railway tracks from Bondamunda to Panposh have reverted to open defecation as many community toilets are not usable for operational issues. “The Nigrani Committees comprising slum volunteers and WSHGs are not working. The RMC is in deep slumber after transferring all the responsibilities to private agencies,” he alleged.

Contacted, RMC commissioner Subhankar Mohapatra said necessary remedial measures would be taken on the ODF issue.

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