A Clean Goa Still A Distant Dream
Governor Mridula Sinha told the Assembly on Wednesday that the state government was committed to make Goa open defecation free (ODF) by October 2 this year. She said her government has completed four schemes under integrated development of major towns and also started awareness drive to educate public on the need for having toilets. But that, we suppose, is not enough. The state government needs to do more. Since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) was launched four years ago the state government has been trying to make Goa ODF but has not succeeded. It is a pity to note that despite the small size of the state and very high literacy and high average income, the state government has not been able to complete the mission. The Economic Survey 2018-19 has revealed that more than 20 per cent of households in the state were without latrine facilities, which speaks volumes in itself. The Governor’s expression of commitment to making Goa ODF by October 2, 2019 coincides with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi; the state government should do all it can to fulfil the promise.
When the government talks of economic prosperity and high individual incomes in the state, the reality of neither of the two districts, North Goa and South Goa, being ODF presents a pitiable contrast. Government departments have not done enough to make the mission quick and successful. Not a single village panchayat or municipal area (including the Corporation of the City of Panaji) has been made ODF free. There are multiple issues that are coming in the way of realization of the state’s ODF dream. The topmost issue is that there is no land to build toilets. People must have land to build toilets: they have used every inch of space for their house or other use. The government needs to build about 70,000 toilets to make Goa ODF, of which around 60,000 would have to be built in panchayat areas. The second problem is absence of proper sewerage and human waste disposal system. Sewer lines do not exist in most parts of the state. The option the government can use is to construct standalone bio-toilets. In view of land constraints faced in most parts of the state, the state has identified installation of bio-toilets, which require lesser space, lesser time for construction and lesser water for usage. However, a bio-toilet costs Rs 40,000 or more; the government would thus need to invest a huge amount of over Rs 300 crore to build them across the state.
In February 2018 Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar expressed embarrassment over the plight of women having to defecate in the open and vowed to make Goa ODF by October 2, 2018. Soon after his statement, the government replaced the Goa State Urban Development Agency (GSUDA) with the Goa Waste Management Corporation as the nodal agency for the mission. At the time of replacement the GSUDA was in the process of inviting proposals from eligible contractors for installation, operation and maintenance of bio-toilets and bio-digester tanks of DRDO technology. The Goa Waste Management Corporation had to start the process afresh, which meant more delay. That shows the bureaucratic manner in which the ODF mission is being pursued. The Union ministry of water and sanitation’s Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin data shows that none of the villages in the state has achieved the target. The promises have been galore but delivery on them has been missing.
Making yet another promise to free Goa from open defecation would not inspire trust among the people. The state government should begin the process right away for providing toilets to those without latrines. Last week Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said the government was considering making it mandatory for house owners to provide toilet facilities for tenants; if necessary, the law with regards to Public Health Act could be changed so as to ensure that every house and family staying in rented houses has its own toilet. However, here again, the problem of availability of extra land with the landlords renting out their rooms or premises to tenants is to be confronted. The task for building 70,000 toilets looks daunting because not much imagination and time has been used by the government to carry it out. As there was hue and cry over the survey to find out requirement of toilets conducted last time, a realistic survey has to be done in urban and rural areas so as to have proper figures of toilets required.