Pause before pushing more people to ODF (open defecation free)

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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Paresh,

Many thanks for assessing my suggestion on the practice of COD, for the interim period, till the firm arrangements of toilets and or Community Toilet complexes are implemented in communities.

It may be gathered that making of toilets is not a one of task, however it needs to be combined with many other factors, for these toilet facilities to be of service to communities. viz water, power and others.
The compliance to rules and regulations can not be totally rigid.  Till the facilities are forthcoming, a do - able option is needed, so that communities do not face hardship.

It has been expressed well by Ar. Paresh that COD practice, is labour intensive and manual work, is needed for O and M of the spaces. 
However with prudent awareness and training, the adapted  COD practice can be progressed well in a safe and sustainable mode, in these present pandemic times too.

In following this COD practice, the service spaces are kept clean and clear, sludges are re-used and health and hygiene realised well with SDGs and GoI protocols .

With well wishes.
Ajit Seshadri
The Vigyan Vijay Foundation. 
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Prof. Sheshadri,
This is in response to your posts related to COD here and in another  thread . You suggest controlled open defecation (COD) as an alternative till every household has access and uses their own toilet or a community sanitation complex. I agree with you here - technically, this looks like a middle ground between open defecation and use of toilets. 

However, given our social structure, such an arrangement will mean that the job of cleaning this shit will fall on the heads of the most marginalised castes from the Dalit community. Also it will likely defer spending on toilets. I therefore fear a large scale adoption will nullify atleast 3 decade long struggle of activists and many manual scavengers themselves . They have fought against an oppressive society and reluctant governments to eradicate the practice and liberate manual scavengers.

I am sure we all agree that the strong legislation have meant nothing and the practice continues even in our metro cities. The community continues to be discriminated against in schools and other social settings. Further, despite the legislation, rehabilitation of manual scavengers hasn't taken place. Money allocated for the purpose has remained unspent for years. (priorities!!)  

Offcourse, one can argue that the workers will use PPE and therefore this will not lead to manual scavenging. However, we all know that PPE are hardly made available to workers. It has also been pointed our earlier that the design of PPE itself needs to be relooked at so that they become more comfortable to use in  hot and humid weather conditions. 

In my humble opinion, we need to be aware of the human toll COD can lead to. I agree that COD will remain a solution in emergency but would not adopt it as an intermediate solution. For the human right perspective in India, OD would be better than COD.

Regards
paresh
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear SuSanA Members- Elisabeth, Rajesh
I do mention that the term COD- Controlled Open Defecation,  could be that I had mentioned it on 5th July 2019 in this thread.
But many months before too, I had indicated that during Kerala floods in 2017, local NGO, with Police protection and Youth volunteers support  had made temporary arrangement for doing Open Defecation which has been done in open during flood times, and before the situation was normalised.
 
Similar floods occurred in 2018 also and more organised manner the NGOs had made the same COD- arrangement.
On this occasion the solid sludges were removed and co-composted and safely dealt with. 

Another occurrence to mention-  On the occasion of Maha Kumbh at Prayag ( year ..  ), Allahabad, here too similar type of arrangement ie open defecation was done in cubicles but those boxes were placed in open, the solid sludges were reportedly  removed  and co-composted and safely dealt with. - This was reported in a Report by a Lead Institute- CEPT University, Ahmedabad.
 
However, Members may note that, what I was trying to put forward is that COD mechanism has worked in emergency condition and with some detailed planning can be evolved as the practices for communities to follow with revisions done as deemed fit at various location, times Etc. 

The modified practices can be documented and applied for usage in more regular and more orderly manner for benefit of all.
GoI ie Indian Govtt. has passed strictures that OD would not be practiced and instead  Toilet facilities made and  to be used by all communities. On these guidelines toilets are planned and built for use by communities.

But there have been many problems, for proper toilets newly made to be functional. In these instances, communities are left without any basic facility and face hardship.  In these times of this predicament, communities can be made to follow OD in controlled manner, till situation is normalised. This would prevent communities revert back to OD done as before in dis organised way, causing nuisance in public. 

Members are requested give a thought to these suggestions given by me and offer comments as they feel fine.
The above notings issued in the social and environmental interest of the communities in the respective habitat. 
well wishes,
Prof Ajit Seshadri, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, New Delhi - NGO.
 
 
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Elisabeth wrote: Rajesh:
Regarding controlled open defecation on Wikipedia: I would first add a paragraph into the existing Wikipedia article on "open defecation". Which existing reference/publication/website/newspaper article could I use? I am not allowed to use this forum as a citation. ;-)

Regards,
Elisabeth


Dear Elisabeth,

The first time i heard the term COD was when Prof. Ajit Seshadri mentioned it on 5th July 2019 in this thread.

I just did a couple of searches and found these 2 sites which have the same diagram on COD:
- www.emersan-compendium.org/en/technologi...lled-open-defecation
- wedc-knowledge.lboro.ac.uk/resources/pos...s_in_emergencies.pdf
with the latter one providing a source: HARVEY, P. A., BAGHRI S. and REED, R. A. 2002. Emergency Sanitation: Assessment and Programme Design. Loughborough, UK: WEDC, Loughborough University

They point to COD's use in emergency situations only and require a person present full-time and with protective clothing.

Their design of COD facilities is thought thru but without examples of its use in the past and i could not find any reference to it post publication.

The first article mentions the most critical area: gender segregation. One could design gender segregation in space (2 facilities) or time (separate timings for each gender).

There needs to be more thought put into the importance of climate in COD. In hot or sunny climate, one could continue this community practice forever. In the rainy season, one would need to adapt more rapid shifting.

And of course, there needs to be some research to help actual operations in terms of how much time is recommended before changing areas, across different conditions. This topic is extremely important as it defines the transition from manual scavenging (and untouchability) and sanitation work (and livelihood).

It is unlikely that we can get one number (like 72 hours) for all situations or a technical description that one can use in the field. It will have to be something implementable thru observation. One could try to use the current local, practice of using cowdung and double the time as a hueristic to start with.

Shanti,
Rajesh
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Ayush (and all),

Thanks for your very informative post! (Did you see the question by Rajesh to you where he said "I am curious as to why you think poorly constructed toilets will last?".)

You said "I have done my master's thesis on a topic related to SBM(G) and also done a project related to Eco San Toilets while staying in a village for 2 months". Could you share your masters thesis and the report about the ecosan toilets?
We might even be able to use your masters thesis as a source in the Wikipedia article on SBM.

Paresh has recently improved the "criticism" section of the Wikipedia article for SBM. I think it's much better now and it is now actually easier to add more content, please see here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swachh_Bharat_Mission#Criticism

I think a lot could still be added there (not with the aim of playing down the achievements but just to give a balanced description and - where needed - to learn from failures). Remember if you have information to add to the Wikipedia article you need to back it up with a source/citation.

Rajesh:
Regarding controlled open defecation on Wikipedia: I would first add a paragraph into the existing Wikipedia article on "open defecation". Which existing reference/publication/website/newspaper article could I use? I am not allowed to use this forum as a citation. ;-)

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Ayush,

Thank you for bringing important and relevant field context into this discussion.

I am curious as to why you think poorly constructed toilets will last?

In earlier work several years ago, it was noticed that pits were much shallower that planned (many CSR and Rotary funded toilets). Contractors saved much money and time. So it is a surprise to me that you say the pits are larger.

However, if only the women are using it, then pits will not fill up as fast, so you may be right.

We need more people like you to report later this year and next year to share medium-term results from SBM.

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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Hi Elisabeth,

1. Creating an entry for COD is a great idea. How can i help? We may have to create a publication.

2. Documenting SBM with transparent verification is vital. However, since many big names are attached to the program, that is going to prove difficult. As Ayush points out, the construction is quite poor and even exposing this will invite the wrong attention. ODF declaration was way ahead of construction (which is likely to not even complete).  Even the construction numbers and locations are suspect, it would have been easy to use a platform like Peer Water or create another mapping app to locate each toilet constructed, but it was not done. Deliberately?

3. The next project (FSM?) will go ahead based on other factors, not the ones that are foundational - the need to treat all the sludge and protect water bodies and human health.

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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Paresh,

Thank you for this good summary. I wish this platform had a way to group responses and threads (like this one should be under your post).

I remain open to COD being a destination rather than an interim step.

One reason, among many: the water contamination that results from pits.

Another reason:  having spent a decade with Bangalore's sewage treatment - both centralized and apartment level decentralized, i see FSM as having many more pitfalls in terms of sustainable operations.

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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Hello All
I have not gone through the whole thread instead I have read the summary and subsequent point. Before commenting I would like to share the context and base of my information/opinion. I have done my master's thesis on a topic related to SBM(G) and also done a project related to Eco San Toilets while staying in a village for 2 months.. The field work for my thesis was done in Bihar, specifically in East and West Champaran districts. I will try to remain as close to the flow as described in the summary.
  • Throughout my field work, I observed that the necessity of toilets is felt among the people though they may not have spare resources, be it land or/and money to spend on toilet construction. This sense of necessity is partially build due to affluent people (upper caste family but not limited to them) using toilets, migrating people using toilets in towns and cities, perception of decreasing open space for defecating in open, women finding it easier and safer to use toilets
  • Though toilets are felt to be necessary but it's priority level changes and varies very differently between people from different castes and gender. What SBM(G) has done(especially the deadline of 2nd October 2018 for Bihar), is to make it one of the most important priority for administration and eventually for all . This led to the coming up of a spontaneous but ever existent nexus between village strongman/contractor/head - elected representative - bureaucracy  for ensuring construction of toilets especially for people who didn't have toilet construction as their priority. The deadline ensured that declaration of ODF started well before the toilets were constructed but it also ensured that the district administration had to proactively take up naming and shaming activities and build toilets within next few months before  1st round of verification. The toilets which were constructed by contractors were generally of poor quality but that doesn't necessarily make it non usable. The use of such toilets was limited to women especially for lower caste families. The lack of use of toilets was not only linked to poor construction but with lack of behavior of using toilets, approach/take of village society regarding toilets , age  and gender of person etc. But the excuse for non usage was always poor quality. The reach of IEC materials was not very consistent and hence the use of  toilets varied accordingly. e.g. One of the villages which was  adopted by MP had prolonged IEC exposure, naming and shaming activities, and more usage.  The toilet was seen as a asset even by family members which were not using these toilets and I observed that the use will rise slowly not as fast as their construction and toilets will generally not get abandoned as was the fate of NBA toilets  The problem of water was not observed in the area but as these areas have high water table there may be groundwater contamination.The variety of toilet technologies which was seen is also very interesting and  I will add that promoting Eco San toilets is very difficult because of its cost as well as different ways of using it.  It will need a very focused IEC and specific geography like flood prone areas for it's adoption, which was the case in one of the village in West Champaran and it's adoption will be very slow in the time when people are already asked to construct Twin Pit Toilets.
  • Adding one more point on COD, previously people in villages and some people even now use trowel (locally called Khurpi) to dig a hole when going for OD and covering it again with soil in the end. I don't know if any study has been done to include such a scenario while determining the impact of such OD/COD. 
  • As far as privacy is concerned any kind of toilet is considerably better than OD. Though I have observed that the toilets constructed by family on their own have better consideration for privacy as compared to contractor constructed toilets. It is a paradox in itself that shaming activities attack on privacy to uphold privacy. But it is true that naming and shaming has increased the adoption of  toilets.
  • The emptying of pits have been highlighted as a problem in literature but in my field work I found that it's rarely a concern for people because of these factors:  a)Pits would take a much longer time to get filled as it's mostly oversized keeping this concern in mind. b)Even for a pit which is constructed by contractor it will take considerable time and if people develop a habit of using the toilet then shifting to the second pit or digging another pit or getting it cleaned by locally available resource(even if it is illegal) doesn't seem to be a concern for people, though it maybe a concern for policy makers, academicians or people like us.  c) As far as Twin Pit toilets are concerned, they don't need any type of mechanized cleaning(it may not even be possible to provide for most of the villages in East Champaran) as it is expected to get decomposed in 6 months to 1 year time.  
  • In the context of Bihar, where previously the availability and use of toilets was well below 30 percent it is highly unlikely that we can call SBM(G) a failure but this mission has highlighted various pros and cons of deadline based implementation of a project especially where significant behavior change components are attached to it. If any study is available then it will be very helpful for future implementation. We should be closely following the activities planned under ODF Plus and ODF Plus Plus. If the SBM(G) is to succeed in terms of long term adoption then the efforts around it must not stop. I have observed in one of the villages that soak pits are being constructed around the hand pump. This is important not just because with the rising population in villages it’s getting difficult to find space for allowing grey water accumulation as was the case in the past but also as such activities will keep the focus of bureaucracy and common people on sanitation. As rightly pointed out, those working in this development sector be it government, civil society, academicians, consultants etc. must go beyond the appeasement of self and rather have a functionalist view in their project implementation as well as  in analysis of impact of projects because whatever might be true for one economy, one geography, one society may not be as good or as bad for other society, geography and economy.
Thanks
AyushKumar
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Thank you Paresh for this excellent summary of this long discussion thread! You did a great job with this summary!

Two small things for all to consider: I'd like to include a definition for "controlled open defecation" in the Wikipedia article on open defecation ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_defecation ). Which publication should I use as a reference?

Secondly, I think documenting what came out of the SBM in India, its failures and successes, is very important. The results are scattered across various papers, goverment reports, newspaper articles and so forth. Let's make this easily accessible and understandable by updating the Wikipedia article on SBM accordingly:  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swachh_Bharat_Mission  (I know Paresh has that on his to-do list but "many hands make light work" so please assist if you can; it would help to point out the most relevant publications to cite).

Now that SBM has ended, which follow-up national campaign will ensure that FSM is scaled up and rolled out? Is there a name for it?

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear all,
Thank you for your excellent and thoughtful posts in the thread. To move forward our deliberations, I am summarising the 29 posts made so far by arranging comments in logical groupings, names in the bracket indicate who made the respective point.

The discussion was initiated by Rajesh’s blog which highlighted the poor quality of toilets constructed under India’s Swachh Bharat  Mission (SBM) and argued that we collectively need to pause before continuing construction at such high pace. In the process he also pointed out some advantages of OD over such poorly constructed toilets. Many posts debated the open defecation (OD) versus  pit toilets and “controlled open defecation” (COD) was also suggested as an interim solution (COD essentially means open defecation at designated sites that are maintained clean and faeces from where is safely managed). As discussion progressed, the very ideas of hygiene, toilet and privacy were debated. A spin-off, but an important debate also centred around the role of the ‘development sector’. 

Idea of Toilet/defecation and related hygiene practices 
- In the agricultural society, lifestyle and sanitation and hygiene practices evolved around our climatic conditions. The practice of defecation was weaved with other activities, it provided economic and health benefits and kept shit away from homes (Ashok).
- The modern idea of toilet is that of a system, which includes a flush toilet accompanied by water supply and management of wastewater (Rajesh).
- The purpose of a sanitation system "is to protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease” (Patrick)
- Defecation on water is the most inappropriate system for dealing with faecal matter (Indukanth through Rajesh),
shitting onto soil is much better that shitting onto water - in theory, but what does it mean in practice (Elisabeth).

Challenges/issues with toilets constructed under SBM
- 
In our haste to achieve the targets, millions of toilets constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission are of poor quality. (Rajesh)
- The accompanying systems (water supply, waste management) haven't received any attention. Despite construction of toilets, OD is still practiced due to scarcity of water. (Rajesh)
- Further, most are connected to OSSs(on-site sanitation systems). Research shows that OSS do not effectively contain bacteria, they contaminate surface and ground water, and extend life of harmful bacteria. The theory (and utility) of pits need to be questioned. (Rajesh)
- Pits should not be allowed where there is a possibility of it becoming a point source of pollution of water (Example: areas with high water table, with black cotton soil) (Ashok)
- Twin pit being promoted despite its limitations, efforts to promote eco-san (urine-diverting dry toilets) being systematically marginalised (Indukanth through Rajesh)
- In this case providing toilets is not providing sanitation as they do not "protect and promote human health (Bracken).  Bad sanitation can be worse than no sanitation if it leads to other forms of pollution. (Elisabeth)

OD/COD (open defecation / controlled open defecation) as interim solution
- 
Open defecation separates urine and faeces, and more importantly exposes the harmful bacteria to sun and air.  OD also needs less water, an important consideration in water stressed regions. (Rajesh)
- COD at well-maintained sites could be an interim arrangement, till household level or community toilets with other infrastructure is arranged. (Ajit)
- Acceptability of OD (or COD) as asolution depends on the contextual factors like climate, geography, geology, water resources, environmental concerns, population density, etc which determine probability of exposure to pathogens, contamination of water sources,
etc. (Patrick, Kris)
- COD can certainly be a solution in emergencies; though it was challenging, but the strategy was used during 2018 Kerala floods. (Ajit)
- Use of pits has other problems, but can we afford to ignore risk of transmission of diseases by feet? (Joe)
- OD was suitable for our society earlier, how do we manage waste in more crowded world? (Elisabeth, Paresh)

The idea of privacy
- 
Privacy should also include access to toilets in public and work places, which continues to be a challenge. (Rajesh)
- Privacy needs to be considered in its entirety; entering toilets in view of others is culturally uncomfortable which is not addressed when toilets are constructed in front yards to save costs, lack of space, etc. (Rajesh)

Future of SBM
- The next challenge will appear when these pits need emptying. There will be hesitation to remove the partially digested  faecal sludge because of the stigma involved.  (Indukanth through Rajesh)
- From many publications, FSM seems to be emerging, a push for mechanised emptying will likely help with the
challenge of emptying. (Elisabeth)

On the development sector
- Working in the development sector for many is more about satisfaction of self rather than those for whom they work. They are enthused by impact and move from one phase to next, spending little time reflecting on the impact of their actions including problems it may have created. We need to dissect our efforts and results before embarking on next goal. (Rajesh)
- It has to be local authority’s responsibility to provide service, the NGO and development sector steps in only to fill voids, to nudge and push and create awareness. (Elisabeth)
- Often, bad policy decisions are a combination of the sector's influence and the broken institutions of local governance. This has pushed one form of development in varied contexts. (Rajesh)
- Perhaps if we let the community be, they would likely come up with innovative alternatives appropriate to their context. (Rajesh)

Moving  forward

I suggest that we focus our attention to the future of toilets constructed under SBM. We should keep a close eye on how fast alternatives to manual emptying of OSS are deployed. As evident from discussion in another thread , work-conditions of those dealing with shit continue to be poor despite a strong law. Finally, now that most people in India have toilets and many of these are connected to OSS, let’s hope FSM gets rapidly deployed so that these toilets take the ultimate step in the sanitation ladder and India achieves SDG target 6.2

As this discussion has pointed out, context is important. Ability of a sanitation system to provide individual and public health benefits as well as to protect the environment needs to be understood in its context. The ideas of hygiene, and privacy are also contextual and so are means of achieving them. Therefore let’s clearly differentiate between urban and rural areas in our future deliberations.

Hopefully, we all agree that COD can only be an interim arrangement and may be particularly important in emergency situations. 

Maybe we need to deliberate here and widely with others, on the idea or how we define ‘development’ and role of the ‘development sector’. We should certainly continue to discuss this in another thread.

Regards
paresh
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Paresh,
Thank you for restarting the dialogue on the subject.
I had written the article with rural environment in mind and it is still relevant there.
Your comments mention URBANISATION twice.
Even today, if you watch an old good family movie, you will notice anybody coming from outside, enters the home, goes to a place where water is placed, washes his hands, face and legs and then mingle with the family members. THIS WAS THE CULTURE.
Many western countries are with cold climates and can not go out early in the morning and need a closed space to do the job with very little clothes on. In contrast, ours is a tropical country and it is good to walk out in the morning.
As ours was and in villages, still is a agriculture based society which loves land, trees, air, water, flora and fauna etc., spending as much time with nature as possible, was and is a boon for us.
As regards the space optimization, it is always a yes-yes, but even today, in rural surroundings, there is always pieces of land available for the purpose.
The sketches which I has made at that time, about 3 years ago, with solar panels, hot water treatment of the sewage and ultimate use of the effluent water in the fields was a zero waste concept.
Well, there is a lot we can write about our culture, but it is better to stop here.
Do share your views.
i would like to thank Rajesh also for the input and his writ petition in the court.
Ashok

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