The only tribal panchayat in Kerala, Edamalakudy in Idukki District was declared open defecation free (ODF) on 1st November, 2016. The district administration attributes the success to the enthusiastic support from local NGOs and students of engineering colleges.
Situated 30 -35 kms from Munnar – the famous tourism destination in Kerala, Edamalakudy is home to 27 hamlets in the interior forest area, each located about 5-15 kms away from the other. Access to the Panchayat is by foot – a one and a half day trek. Governance is certainly a challenge considering the geography.
Prior to the start of the campaign, almost all households defecated in the open. Of the 713 households that resided there, 704 did not have sanitation facilities as toilet coverage was barely 1.26%.
When the Swachh Bharat Mission campaign was started in the Panchayat, people were very receptive of the objectives and plans of the Clean India Campaign, he added.
The DC who is also the Executive Director of District Suchitwa Mission assigned Devikulam sub-collector, Mr. Sreeram for overall monitoring and implementation of ODF campaign at Edamlakkudy. Thereafter, several awareness generation activities were held that revealed the hazardous impact of open defecation. This made a positive change among the tribes, especially the womenfolk who got wholeheartedly involved in construction work. However, the biggest challenge during Edamalakkudy ODF Campaign came when they had to carry construction material such as cement, closets, etc to the hamlets during the monsoon season. Under the circumstances, despite poor weather conditions, they began the construction of toilets.
Fortunately, a lot of people lined up to help – people from NGOs, National Service Scheme (NSS) students of Government Engineering College Idukki and Munnar and National Cadets Corps (NCC) of Devamatha College Kuravilangadu, Kottayam; ex-servicemen and members of the village community. They helped carry material on their shoulders through wild paths, crossing brooks and rivers using bamboo bridges. For the enthusiastic students, the exercise was certainly adventurous.
“It took about 6 months for all homes to have toilets,” the DC said. On completion of work, Head of the Tribe, also called the Ooru Mooppan, honoured and appreciated the volunteers who offered dedicated service in construction of toilets.