By Shruti Appalla
2018 began on a joyous note for the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. The state declared that it had achieved its target of becoming open defecation free by the end of 2017, a year and ten months before the national deadline of October 2019.
Arunachal has 21 districts in total all of which require public and private toilet facilities before the title can be proffered on to the state. The announcement came once three remaining districts- Upper Subansiri, Siang and Changlang were declared open- defecation free in an official release on December 31st.
The vast algid countryside of the state is dotted with small villages. The villagers themselves, on a number of occasions, have had to carry construction material along with ration on their heads. Remote villages along the international borders like Vijayanagar, Taksing, Pipsorang have also been helped to construct toilets despite communication bottlenecks requiring strenuous trekking for days according to Chief Minister Pema Khandu. The inaccessible locations also required officials to design innovative models.
The Chief Minister also thanked various stakeholders for their efforts. He said, “The herculean task has been possible with the active support of the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation, Govt. Of India, constant monitoring by Ministry PHE & WS Bamang Felix, Commissioner PHE, Chief Engineers, Deputy Commissioners, PRI Members, NGOs, Youths, target beneficiaries, other stakeholders and the undying spirit of Team of officials of the implementing agency the PHE & WS Department, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh.”
The financial struggle
The project also faced several financial challenges. It is undertaken under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) SBM (G) that sees inputs from majorly the Central governments but also on occasion from the state governments. The Centre’s support of Rs 12,000 was felt inadequate seeing the transportation costs and difficult terrain. The project required the state government to extend an incentive of Rs 8,000 per toilet. This raised the grant for constructing each toilet to Rs 20,000.
Arunachal Pradesh government has also launched the Swachh Arunachal Mission on October 2 this year at Tawang which envisaged the Swachh Protocol (Cleanliness Protocol) aimed at ensuring sustainability of assets created under SBM (Gramin).
Despite these visible achievements, PHE & WS Minister Bamang Felix cautioned the people of the state. He said the state had to make a sustained effort to maintain the ODF status and the key to success could only be constant vigilance against allowing open defecation to raise its ugly head.
Featured Image Source: Sustainable sanitation on Visual hunt / CC BY