Tribal communities that visited the Kachargadh Mela held in Salekasa Taluka of Gondia district in Maharashtra between 7th and 11th February this year were pleasantly surprised with the sanitation facilities that the newly built community toilets provided. Equipped with wash basins, bathing facilities and latrines, the toilets became the talk of the town.
Painted in exotic colours with tribal motifs and appropriate sanitation messages, nine toilets units have been constructed – four for men, four for women and one extra. Each of the toilet units’ cost Rs. 2 lakhs, adding to a total of Rs. 18 lakhs for the nine units.
Every unit built using the precast concrete model comprises four toilets and 4 bathrooms with separate wash basins for the use of pilgrims. Sanitization Expert, Mr. Suryakant Rehemeatkar, and Engineer Expert Mr. B. O. Patle made special efforts during construction of these toilets, completing them within 10 days.
Gondia district was declared as Hagandari Mukta or open defecation free (ODF) district earlier and defecation in open places is strictly prohibited by law.
However, the district administration knew that there is a high possibility of open defecation during the fair, owing to large crowds. To address this, CEO of Zila Parishad, Dr. Raja Dayanidhi and Deputy CEO, Mr. Rajesh Rathod from the Department of Water and Sanitation came up with the idea of community toilets, which is in keeping with the guidelines of Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen campaign.
According to IEC expert (SBM-G), Gondia-Zila Parishad, Mr. Atul Gajbhiye, each year many people from tribal communities across the country gather in Kachargadh where Asia’s largest natural cave is situated to attend the fair.
He said that Salekasa Taluka of Gondia District is known for naxalism, its tribal population and its backwardness. Nevertheless, its abundant natural resources and cultural developments have taken the place to the greater heights. In addition, many other tourists visit the place due to its rich natural resources and pleasant environment.
For these reasons, the district administration has been committed to provide all facilities to the annual visitors. Each year, considerable efforts are made to make people aware of the need to observe handwashing and safe sanitation practices that would keep them healthy.
The toilets served a dual purpose – one to provide sanitation facilities and the other to make people aware of the importance of using toilets through messages painted on the walls of the community toilets.
Ahead of the Mela, district officials sought active participation of people through door to door visits and using NSS volunteers and women self help groups to pass on the message about the availability of community toilets.