Govt to amend Health Act to make land available for toilets

Margao: Even as the October deadline draws near, the state government is now mulling amendment to the Public Health Act to address the issue of non-availability of land to set up toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission.

The state government has received 17,000 applications for setting up toilets under the Swachh mission so as to achieve the open defecation free (ODF) status, while only 4,000 applications have land or the no-objection certificate (NoC) available to set up toilet.

Meanwhile, director of panchayats Rajan Satardekar said Monday that garbage management must be tackled at the macro level and every village panchayat should look towards setting up of a garbage treatment plant even as over 100 of the 191 panchayats do not have land to set up their garbage treatment plants.

Speaking informally to reporters, the director of panchayats said the government has received 17,000 applications out of which 4,000 can be addressed directly for setting up of the toilets. He said these 4,000 applications have land available - either own land or NoC from land owner for setting up the toilet.

He said that the government is providing toilets at subsidised rates based on various categories. He also said that the tender for the bio-digesters will be opened on Tuesday by Goa Solid Waste Management Corporation.

With regard to 13,000 applications, the director of panchayats said there is a legal issue as the applicants either do not possess land for the toilet or the landlord does not provide the NoC. He said the government is looking to address the issue by bringing about an amendment to the Public Health Act, as the use of a toilet is treated as a necessity for a human being. He said as water and electricity connections are considered as necessities, so also the use of a toilet will be treated on the same lines.

It may be noted that the model code of conduct is in force in view of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Satardekar said that the government has sought an exemption from the Election Commission so that the 4,000 applications can be processed and work order issued for facilitation of work on the toilets. He said the government is ready as “we have the data and we know the requirements.”

On the garbage issue, he said that the garbage treatment has to be decentralised and it is not possible for one or two big units to resolve the garbage issue in the state. He said the garbage management must be decentralised as it also involves other issues like transportation cost, logistics etc and plants on a smaller scale similar to the one at Saligao should be replicated in villages where not only is the garbage treated but electricity is also generated.

He said the plant managed by the Goa Solid Waste Management Corporation at Saligao is one of the best in the country and the National Green Tribunal has asked other states to replicate the technology elsewhere and similar plants can be set up at macro level in villages.

“Everyone wants the villages to be clean and also Goa clean but nobody is comfortable with the concept of garbage plants in their backyard; it is the people who must cooperate,” Satardekar said.