Sirsia Hanumanganj gram panchayat (GP) in Bhargama block of Araria district in Bihar is one of the first open defecation free (ODF) GPs in the district. The most noticeable change was seen in the area adjoining the lake. From being a prime defecation site, it had transformed into a prime sanitation park, thanks to the painstaking efforts of champion block development officer (BDO) Rekha Kumari and her dedicated squad who were also instrumental in the making of a Swachh Bhargama.
The GP which was declared ODF in December 2017 is today an inspiration to other villages in the district.
Primarily a rural district with 93% of its population living in the rural areas, Araria is one of the poorest districts of Bihar. In Bhargama Block which is situated 40 KMs towards the west of the district headquarters, open defecation was rampant and widely accepted by the community. Under the circumstances, sensitizing the community about the ill effects of open defecation was an enormous challenge.
For the BDO and her team, they encountered numerous problems in the initial days. Considering that the local community accepted open defecation as a traditional practice, how were they to inform them about the effects of open defecation on health; about fecal oral transmission; and encourage them to adopt safe sanitation practices?
However, with the help of trained Swachhagrahis who were trained on the CLTS (community led total sanitation) approach, triggering activities were carried out in all 14 wards.
To ensure construction of quality toilets, masons were identified and trained to construct cost effective and ecologically friendly twin pit toilets. Once toilets were constructed, to ensure consistent usage, morning and evening follow-up were undertaken, even as motivation of community during the day time and mass level Inter Personal Communication (IPC) were carried out in mission mode by the BDO and her team.
Simultaneously, a Swachhta Park was developed on government encroached land. The community had also taken the lead to rejuvenate two village lakes which were previously the prime defecation site. The lakes were cleaned and the area around it beautified with the help of MGNREGA funds. Further the BDO and Mukhiya (President) of the village, Ms. Nirmala Devi along with other women carried out a series of works that changed the topography of the village.
Sirsia Hanumanganj village is best example of convergence in which the village president has used several other government schemes to make the GP clean. The village model has motivated neighbouring GPs of Bhargama block and inspired other Mukhiyas to do likewise.
Plans are in the pipeline to rejuvenate all other village lakes in the block. The block administration is also planning to construct a sanitation school within the Bhargama Block office compound that would house a display of different toilet technology options; a rural sanitary mart; a training centre and a district resource centre that would be provide one day training and exposure visits to PRI members and villages communities.
Inputs: Bhushan Shah, ZSBP-Araria, Tarun Ranjan, State IEC Consultant, Bihar