(Photo credits: WaterAid India)

THE STORY POST ODF: TACKLING WASTE

By Shoumyakant Joshi/WAI

With almost 90% of the gram panchayats in Chhattisgarh declared as open defecation- free (ODF) in the recent past, the state is experiencing a paradigm shift in rural sanitation. However, to sustain the ODF status, the need to manage the solid and liquid waste is significant. Keeping in view this pressing need, a dynamic women’s group from Patora village of Durg district is leading the change. Here is how.

Patora is a small village, home to over 3000 people, in the interiors of Patan block of Durg in Chhattisgarh. With approximately 600 families residing in the village, the problem of open defecation has been successfully resolved with the active participation of the women’s group in the village as well as the local leaders.

When the village was declared open defecation- free last year, the villagers, especially women welcomed the change with open arms; relieved with the idea of having a toilet at home. Even though the village was now quite clean as compared to its earlier scenario, there was still a desperate need to manage the waste lying across the village premises.

Some of the women who strongly felt about the problem identified the growing need to manage the waste and decided to approach the Sarpanch of the village, Taarni Verma.

Verma, a popular and approachable local leader in the community, had earlier motivated the women to form an association of their own to address certain issues in the village. They took her advice and soon the women of the village were able to identify themselves as change makers. The women’s group conducted meetings from time to time to discuss the pressing needs of the community and the scope of development. Depending on the situation and the need, they would then come up with solutions or reach out to the concerned authorities. They had earlier worked together to support the ongoing efforts to make the village open defecation- free and were thus a strong entity in the village.

As Verma promised to look into the issue of waste management as the next step in the ladder, she also motivated the women to discuss the same during their upcoming meeting with rest of the group members.

Soon, a village meeting was called where a majority of the women participated along with the Sarpanch and her team. Post in-depth discussions they unanimously decided to first conduct village tours and analyse the situation in order to understand the magnitude of improvement that was required.

And soon the process started. They went around the Gram Panchayat and examined each and every nook and corner. From lanes to small clusters of houses and ultimately to the entire ward -- every area was closely inspected. As the waste was also contaminating the water sources of the village such as the ponds and hand pumps, the women meticulously took note of the type of waste that had accumulated at each area.

Post the inspection, another meeting was called with the women as well as men. The villagers were informed about the various types of solid and liquid waste that were identified across the Gram Panchayat. The Sarpanch helped the villagers classify the waste as solid and liquid, and also informed everyone about the high incidence of diseases that they were thus exposed to.

Keeping in view the urgency of the issue, the women decided to organize various activities to understand solid and liquid waste management in depth. They began with holding discussions on the growing problem through the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) technique. PRA is a common approach adopted by the development sector that aims to incorporate the knowledge and opinions of rural people in the planning and management of development projects and programmes.

PARTICIPATORY RURAL APPRAISAL IN PROGRESS TO UNDERSTAND THE GAPS IN THE SYSTEM AS WELL AS THEIR SOLUTIONS (PHOTO CREDITS: WATERAID INDIA)

The PRA helped form a detailed execution plan to manage the waste. The women ensured that the plan was followed keeping in view the following aspects –

a. Marking the village locations that were favourable for accumulating waste, and later treating it.

b. Formation of a Women’s Vigilance Committee who would ensure that every villager follows the set rules of waste disposal and management.

c. A budget based on the needs of the community.

d. A team of sanitation workers to keep the village clean.

e. Collective village cleanliness drive organized from time to time.

f. Execution of community- level awareness campaigns.

g. For better understanding, the women also visited the solid and liquid waste management model park in Chhattisgarh.

h. Water quality testing to ensure that groundwater is fit for use.

THE WOMEN LEARNING ABOUT THE VARIOUS ASPECTS OF SOLID AND LIQUID WASTE MANAGEMENT AT THE MODEL PARK. (PHOTO CREDITS: WATERAID INDIA)

And the results were exceptional.

The gram panchayat became much cleaner. The water and air contamination decreased, leading to lesser illnesses reported among children. The villagers soon became interested in forming biological compost and thus using it on their fields. Soon, the groundwater quality also improved as a result of decreased waste disposal near the ponds and water sources. The villagers also stopped the usage of polythene which further impacted the cleanliness in the village. Moreover, the management of solid and liquid waste also led to more people being employed in forming compost and selling it at a small scale, leading to a growth in the overall income.