Kannur, the northern district of Kerala spread over an area of 2966 sq.kms from the Arabian Sea to the Western Ghats was declared open defecation free (ODF) on October 1, 2016. Notwithstanding challenges related to prolonged water logging and inaccessibility in certain areas, with the active involvement of people’s representatives, NGOs and Self Help Groups, the district administration was able to provide toilet coverage to the entire district.
According to District Collector (DC), Mir Mohammed Ali, the main challenges while implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission campaign included resistance from beneficiaries of some areas such Azhikode and Aralam Farm. In addition, there were areas that were prone to water logging for prolonged periods of time and others that were inaccessible.
Further, people living in the area which is known for its loom industries and ritualistic festivals in its temples, although very particular about personal hygiene, did not apply the same sentiment to social hygiene. Hence, it was common for a small percentage of people in both the coastal and hilly regions to perform their ablutions outdoors.
In addition, in certain farm areas, people feared attacks from wild animals like elephants and wild pigs that frequently roamed about. Adding to these challenges was lack of sufficient land in some cases and escalating unit cost in others.
With a view to overcoming these challenges, several local level meetings were convened with people’s representatives and administrative officials. Further, the administration organized awareness building and motivation programmes that promoted good sanitation practices and encouraged people to build and use toilets.
As far as finance was concerned, the DC said, a request was made to enhance unit cost to Rs 20,000 and that was made possible with support from the State Suchithwa Mission and CSR mobilization.
Significantly, the administration sought active involvement of people’s representatives, NGOs, Kudumbasree functionaries, SHGs and social activists and their participation showed good results. Considerable support was extended from government organizations such as District Nirmiti Kendra (an agency that develops cost effective alternatives and energy efficient technologies), Jalanidhi (Kerala rural water supply and sanitation agency), etc.
During the campaign, a total of 7182 toilets were constructed out of which 125 toilets were constructed at Azhikode Gram Panchayat in the coastal area and 756 at Aralam Gram Panchayat in the hill region.
Overcoming fear of attacks by wild animals remained an obstacle as people of Aralam Gram Panchayat were reluctant to be involved in constructing toilets, let alone carry out their routine work. After repeated visits of the DC, the Panchayat President and other officials who camped out there, people overcame their fear and construction activity began and was completed in due course.