‘Swachh Gram’ Remains a Distant Dream for Rural People in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Environmental hygiene is crucial to combat malnutrition as it helps prevent the spread of diseases. Despite the Odisha government’s efforts to create clean and hygienic villages, a recent survey conducted by the Atmashakti Trust, along with its allies Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha and Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, reveals significant deficiencies in basic infrastructure, including damaged tube wells, lack of soak pits, absence of drainage facilities, inadequate cement concrete (CC) roads, and poor toilet facilities.

The survey, which covered 9,696 villages across 866 Gram Panchayats (GPs) in 15 tribal-dominated districts of Odisha, underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive overhaul of water infrastructure in Odisha to improve the overall cleanliness and sanitation in rural areas. The survey findings are alarming and require immediate action from the government and civil society organizations.
● According to the survey, out of the 32,960 tube wells and hand pumps surveyed, 68.25% (18663) of tube wells/hand pumps needed to be in functional condition. While 35.34% (11,648 ) did not have a platform, 5.34% (1,139) of platforms and 27.57% (5,876) of platforms were partially broken. Furthermore, 82.67% (21662) of tube wells had no functional soak pit, which is essential to allow wastewater to seep into the surrounding soil.
● The survey also revealed that out of 9696 villages, 80.6% (7816) had either no or improper facilities for water drainage. Also, 34.48% (1,823) of drainage structures, such as pipes, channels, culverts, ditches, and surface drains, could have been more defunct.
● Lack of a proper drainage system can lead to the accumulation of stagnant water, which can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes that can spread diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. It can cause people to fall ill, and experience reduced appetites, leading to malnutrition.
● Cement concrete (CC) roads are essential for environmental hygiene in villages as they provide a rugged and durable surface that can withstand heavy rainfall and prevent soil erosion. However, the survey revealed that 38.65% (3402) of villages either did not have a CC road or were in fully damaged condition.
● Proper sanitation and hygiene facilities are critical for preventing the spread of diseases. However, the study showed that 30.17% (289,116) of households surveyed lacked toilets. Another 24% of toilets either needed to have adequate water facilities or were not in a condition to use.
“Even after 75 years of independence, it is unfortunate that many rural areas in Odisha lack basic amenities. We have put demands at the Gram Panchayat and Block levels to build the required infrastructure to ensure environmental hygiene and curb malnutrition. Now, we urge the authorities to complete the establishment of these infrastructures before the onset of the monsoon so that water and sanitation-related problems can be resolved,” said Mr. Anjan Pradhan, Convener of Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha.

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