On 7th January, 2020, the district administration of Muzaffarpur in Bihar handed over the keys to three community toilets in the villages of Ebrahimpur, Bakhhra and Manikpur in Sariya Block, to families that did not have space, adequate finance or had behavioural issues that prevented them from building their own toilets.
Of the 108 such community toilets planned in all the blocks of the district over the next few weeks, 12 have been completed thus far.
The move will help the district sustain its open defecation free (ODF) status and at the same time ensure that people who were left out under the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign have access to sanitation facilities.
A community toilet is an asset that is owned by the community benefitting multiple users of a locality, located in the vicinity of the habitation.
According to District Magistrate (DM), Muzaffarpur, Mr. Alok Ranjan Ghosh, community toilets cater to fence sitters as they act as a stop gap arrangement until an individual household toilet (IHHL) is constructed and it helps that there is flexibility in user numbers.
Background: Comprising 16 Blocks and 385 Panchayats, Muzaffarpur has a population of 48,01,062 (2011 census). As per the baseline survey of 2012, sanitation coverage was a mere 22.86% leaving 5.43 lakh households without access to sanitation.
During the implementation of SBM-G, other than discrepancies in the baseline survey; non availability of masons was a huge problem as also to convince people about twin pit technology being the best suited. Non availability of land, socio economic issues and changing mindsets from an age old habit posed other problems.
To address these issues, training was provided in community approaches to sanitation to village Mukhias, ASHA and anganwadi workers; mason training at block level; verification and geo-tagging to speed up payments; and mass awareness programmes among others.
Owing to consistent efforts of the SBM-G campaign and accelerated efforts to construct toilets, by December 2018, the district was declared ODF, having achieved the mammoth target of constructing individual toilets and on sharing basis for some.
Toilets constructed: While 7407 toilets were built in 2014-15; 26184 were constructed in 2015-16; 16415 in 2016-17; 180015 in 2017-18; 308810 in 2018-19 and 5400 in 2019-20. Also, many who had been left out of the baseline survey were added to the list and given incentives to build toilets.
Ongoing efforts: To address gaps across the entire state, a massive drive was undertaking, giving people an opportunity to enroll themselves under ‘No One Left Behind’ (NOLB) initiative. Further, to incentivize the adoption of twin leach pit technology and to ensure that the ODF status is sustained, under Lohia Swachh Bihar Abhiyan incentive was paid even to APL (above poverty line) families.
The practice of self construction of IHHL in Bihar has had a tremendous impact in terms of improved usage while weeding out quality issues, allowing for innovative approaches. Hence this was continued. Further, given the importance of sanitation and hygiene, the provision of a toilet for each household was included among the 7 Nishchay Yojana (7 resolves) of the state. Also, a separate water connection is to be provided for the toilet in each household under the Mukhyamantri Har Ghar Nal ka Jal Yojana.
Rationale for community toilet: As per their experience, the DM said that post triggering and awareness generation, efforts had been made to encourage construction of IHHL. However, officials realized that a segment of the population in the village was not economically able to spare resources – land and money for toilet construction but were sensitized enough to change their sanitation habits. The community toilets would cater to this segment, offering convenience and dignity, while preventing open defecation.
The district administration felt it was vital to address their sanitation needs as even if a miniscule population resorts to open defecation, the changes of disease spread would persist in the society, despite others have their own toilets. The community toilets were meant as a last resort to sustain the district’s open defecation free (ODF) status.
Construction of community toilets: Having surveyed the entire district, the officials interacted with the community and identified the gaps in sanitation coverage and prioritized those areas that needed urgent attention. Thereafter, they selected sites, prepared layouts, built foundation and began construction of the community toilets before handing over the same to the community for maintenance and upkeep.
Each of the community toilets has six latrines – 3 for men and 3 for women connected to twin pits with a junction box; one hand pump with a soak pit and a sand block, complete with soap, running water and light fixtures. An entire unit costs Rs. 1,79,475 including material and labour costs. As for the keys to the toilets, they are handed over to families that make a commitment to keep them clean. On the other hand, maintenance and repair work has been entrusted with Ward Implementation and Management Committee (WIMC) of the 7 Nishchay Scheme of the Bihar Government and continuous monitoring will be done by Nigrani Samiti involving Jeevika didis.