Absence of sewerage lines, non-availability of land and regular supply of water are hurdles for Parrikar-led govt to finish the work
PANJIM: Non-availability of land, absence of sewer lines, no regular supply of water and lack of willingness amongst people are some of the major challenges before the Manohar Parrikar-led coalition government in Goa which has set target to construct nearly 72,000 toilets in next eight months in a bid to make the coastal State Open Defecation Free (ODF) by October 2.
After being on top of the national chart on various fronts like tourism, Smart City Mission, literacy, etc, Goa fallen short from being Open Defecation Free. It’s the news which Chief Minister finds difficult to digest. But it is the harsh reality.
Goa with a population of over 14 lakh (as per 2011 Census), has nearly 20 per cent households without toilet facility. But what is interesting is that the State is amongst those which are ranked top with households having the television sets.
“Achieving ODF by October 2 is the biggest challenge before the Government. We have just eight months in hand to achieve the target. To cope up with the ground challenges, the administration is gearing up,” Parrikar said.
“The biggest issue before the State today is the land. There is no land available for construction of toilets. Hence, the residents use public or community toilets or defecate in the open. The issues like CRZ regulations, forest laws, no development zones, have further worsen the situation, where you need to seek the NOCs from the concerned agencies to build a toilet,” a senior official attached to Directorate of Rural and Development Agency (DRDA) said.
DRDA is currently entrusted with the task of conducting village level survey across all the 12 talukas. In the first phase, it has completed the survey in five talukas Bardez, Bicholim, Canacona, Pernem and Quepem. The survey indicates that as many as 24,193 houses are without toilet facility, while 63, 535 houses have toilets.
Bicholim, the third largest taluka as far as number of houses are concerned, tops the list with 7,464 households without toilets, followed by Pernem (4,970), Bardez (4,323), Canacona (3,853) and Quepem (3,576).
From these five talukas, there is also demand for 237 community toilets. “The survey is currently in progress. It will be completed by end of this month. We are shocked to see the number of households without toilets. This is something unexpected for us,” DRDA Minister Jayesh Salgaonkar told Herald.
During the survey, it was brought to the notice of the surveyors that most of the houses which lack toilets have no land available for construction of the same. There is space constraint; moreover, panchayats are not landing help in identifying land for such households.
“Also, in the remotest villages, there are still some people who prefer to defecate in the open than in toilets. Despite being constructed, several senior citizens, even today have made nearby forest areas as the defecation ground,” sources said.
Also in settlements where some houses have toilets, the underground sewerage network is not available. Here excreta are released in nearby open areas/drains/water bodies or removed by manual scavengers. Also inadequate supply of water for flushing the excreta forces many to defecate in the open.
If this is not enough, increasing migrant influx has worsened the situation. Having no proper shelter to live, these people are forced to defecate in the open. The growing number of slums in the urbanised areas is something to worry. “Slum rehabilitation is on cards of the government. The survey in this regard has commenced. One will find the largest open defecation in slum areas. But there are public toilets put in place but unfortunately are not been put to use,” a senior official said.
In the first phase, Chief Minister has directed all the panchayats to identify the land for construction of the toilets and also asked Sewerage Corporation to ensure that every household is connected with sewerage connection.
The government has decided to commence supply of toilets to the households from April. The toilets, costing Rs 40,000, are fitted with bio-digester. Bio-digester toilet technology, perfected by the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation), is an eco-friendly and maintenance-free system to manage human waste, which is being put to use under the Swachh Bharat Mission movement.