A year after rural Kerala was declared Open Defecation Free, the urban areas in the southern state are now gearing up to achieve the ODF status with over 27,000 household toilet units and a series of public toilet complexes. Only 16 toilets are left to be constructed to meet the target of 27,745 individual household latrines (IHL) under the urban ODF programme and its work is expected to be completed soon, official sources here said.
The work is progressing at Thanthonni Thuruth, a water-logged area under the Corporation limit of the state's commercial hub, Kochi, they said. Of the total 93 urban civic bodies in the state, 20 units, including two municipal Corporations and 18 Municipalities, have already been declared ODF after its self-declaration and the mandatory third party inspection by the Centre.
A senior official of Suchitwa Mission, the state nodal agency for sanitation which is entrusted with its implementation, said a number of other civic bodies are also waiting for the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs' inspection after its self-declaration as ODF. As per the procedure, each civic body has to declare itself as ODF first after the construction of targeted number of toilets within its limit.
Later, the central government should be appraised about the self-declaration and an expert team would then visit the places accordingly for the third party inspection. If the criteria are met satisfactorily, the civic body would be awarded the ODF tag. The team would inspect the same area again after 6 months to ensure the follow up actions in this regard.
"Many civic bodies have already completed self-declaration procedure and waiting for the inspection by the Centre team," the Mission official, who does not want to be named, told PTI. "But, some others are putting their self-declaration plan on hold for the construction of public toilet complexes, which is a fresh scheme by the state government," he said.
The technical team of Ministry of Urban Affairs, awarding the ODF status, is particular about the existence of public toilets as it is important to realise the ODF goals in densely populated urban areas, he added. Expressing hope that urban Kerala will be declared complete ODF by the end of January, the official said, "Even if it may take some more time for the construction of public toilets, the declaration will not go beyond March next year."
In the urban area, Thrissur and Kozhikode corporations have already been declared open defecation free. Payyannur, Tirurangadi, Pala, Vaikom, Farook, Koylandi, Taliparamba, Koothuparamba, Iritty, Perumbavoor, Kottarakkara and Kanjangadu are some among the 18 Municipalities which have achieved the ODF tag.
Though Thiruvananthapuram Corporation in the state capital has completed the self-declaration procedure, it is yet to get the nod from the Centre for third party inspection, sources said. Detailing the implementation of ODF programme in urban areas, the Suchitwa Mission official said the space constraints was the major challenge faced.
In place of the ordinary latrines, fiber toilets have been constructed in water-logged areas especially in coastal Alappuzha and Kochi, he said adding keeping the places especially coastal areas open defecation-free is another challenge. Rural Kerala had been declared Open Defecation Free in November, 2016. About 1.75 lakh toilets had been constructed in rural parts of the state including critical areas like remote tribal hamlets and water-logged areas under the initiative.