New Delhi: Residents of Titagarh municipal area in Bengal had never imagined things will transform so quickly; and that they will enjoy a healthy, clean life in the historic city known more for its old British period paper plant and rail wagon factory.
This city falling under North 24 Parganas district had all the ingredients that made it a filthy unhygienic city until it was brought under Nirmal Sankalp project three years ago.
An aura of joy surrounds Pumpi as she elaborates why a gradual shift from a habit of defecating in the open to a habit which involved the usage of well-built toilets was indeed a good step. Pumpi Majumdar, a resident of Titagarh Municipality area, is one of the four women caretakers in the sanitation complex of Ward 10.
Sharing her thoughts on the sanitary complexes, she adds “We have been born and brought up in the conditions which we later understood to be unhygienic and unhealthy. For us, they were a pattern that indicated normalcy.”
Marked by poor housing conditions and an unimproved alternative to safe water and sanitation, the natives of Titagarh have had resorted and adapted to an unhygienic lifestyle. The consequences of open and unclean drains, widespread open defecation, and absolutely no management of waste have led to rampant diseases.
In 2016, a journey called ‘Nirmal Sankalp’ was then embarked on to develop the wards no. 1, 2, 3, 5,10 and 13 of the municipality to open- defecation free while simultaneously engaging with residents on topics of health and hygiene.
The ‘Nirmal Sankalp’ Project was implemented by WASH Institute and supported by Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation (CESC) with the objectives of establishing community-based sanitary institutions and initiated activities which could bring about sustained behavioral changes amongst the community. “We have established four communities sanitary complexes with in-built facilities and are looking forward to completing three more by the month of August 2018.
We have also incorporated music systems to give the users a feel-good factor about the toilets,” says Jyotirmay Chakraborty, the Project In-charge of WASH Institute.
Adding further he says: “Completing two years was indeed a difficult task for us since the residents were habituated of free services, and hence were reluctant to pay for them. That’s where our activities, such as street plays, and community meetings for mass awareness, played a crucial role”.
With sustainability as the major criterion, the project has put the gears in the hands of the residents thereby generating livelihood opportunities as well. “I have always wanted to earn and lead an empowered life. The sanitary blocks have made my dreams come true as it enabled economic opportunities that have had an immense impact on upgrading my social and economic plights since now I can decrease my expenses on health and can use the saved money towards leading a meaningful life“ recounts Pumpi.
Adding further to ensuring sustainability, the complexes, with the help of the residents’ contribution of INR 1 for services, have developed sufficient funds for operation and maintenance which in turn have also helped in sustaining the steadily increasing footfalls.