Bengaluru: With only 4.7% of gram panchayats of the state being open defecation free, the Karnataka government aims to build 10.3 lakh more toilets across the state in 2016-2017. This is to achieve the target of 40 lakh toilets by 2019 under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The state now has 21 lakh toilets.

“We are looking forward to building 10.3 lakh toilets in 2016-17. Public health campaigns take time and require relentless efforts. As many as 120 toilets were built in Badas village of Belagavi district after rigorous planning and ground work,” Subhash Chandra, additional chief secretary, rural development and panchayat raj (RDPR), said at a workshop on Open Defecation Free Karnataka organized by Unicef.

“Even though around 50% population of the state has access to toilets, the problem of open defecation is still persistent. Only 4.7% gram panchayats of Karnataka were open defecation free in 2015. The urban population of Karnataka has access to toilets but it is the rural population which is still struggling for the right to sanitation,” said Salatheil Nali, officer-WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), Unicef. WASH aims to provide the right to access of water, sanitation and hygiene to school children.

He pointed out that though many households have toilets, open defecation is still prevalent in rural areas due to lack of awareness. “We need work on the attitude of the people and encourage them to build toilets in their houses. Even if one family from the village opts to go out in the open then the village is not free from open defecation. The concept of shared toilets in the villages should also be discouraged to achieve 100% sanitation,” the WASH officer said.

According to Unicef, only five of the 30 districts in the state have satisfactory access to toilets while another three are average in the usage programme. The rest are below the minimum stated standards of toilet access and usage.

Besides lack of space and money, water shortage is one of the primary reasons for the failure to achieve successful sanitation in several areas. The problem is acute Kalaburgi, Raichur, Ballari, Koppal, Yadgir and Bidar.

Explaining the challenges they faced in implementing Unicef’s WASH programme, Sumangala, deputy director of public instruction-Ramanagaram, said, “We achieved it by taking school teachers, the sub divisional magistrate and elected representatives into confidence.”

The Udipi district claims to be the fourth in the country to be open defecation free after Nadia (Odisha), Bikaner (Rajasthan) and Indore (Madhya Pradesh). However the government is yet to verify Udipi’s claim.
Source: TOI-BGLR