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6 lakh toilets in over 3 decades; Meet the Swachhata Warrior from Tiruchirappalli

6 lakh toilets in over 3 decades; Meet the Swachhata Warrior from Tiruchirappalli

Dire lack of access to sanitation facilities and awareness about the importance of hygiene and cleanliness caught Sai Damodaran’s attention almost 35 years ago.

Expert It’s a matter of concern when people relieve themselves in fields, bushes, forests, water bodies, or any other open spaces, rather than using a toilet. The dire lack of access to sanitation facilities and awareness about the importance of hygiene and cleanliness caught Sai Damodaran’s attention almost 35 years ago when he was a member of the National Service Scheme (NSS) unit of his college in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu. He visited the nearby rural areas and decided to act on the problem of open defecation.

In 1987, Damodaran founded a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Gramalaya. Today, at the age of 55, Damodaran has dedicated his life to provide access to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) to those living in over 1,000 villages and several urban areas across five Southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Damodaran and his team of volunteers have built over 6 lakh individual household toilets and 500 school toilets in the past three decades. The sanitation facilities built through Gramalaya have impacted the cleanliness habits of over 30 lakh people across the southern states.

Kalmandhai, a slum under Tiruchirappalli City Municipal Corporation, was declared as India’s first open-defecation free (ODF) slum in 2002. Soon after, in 2003, Thandavampatti, a habitation of 62 homes in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli district, was declared as India’s first ODF village. This was a significant achievement for Damodaran’s team.

Gramalaya has helped over 200 slum areas and more than 300 villages in the southern part of the country to become open defecation free over the years.

S Damodaran has also developed 24 low-cost toilet models and a centre for toilet technology and training.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in 2013 approved Gramalaya as one of the national key resource centres for providing training on water and sanitation to government officials and NGOs across south Indian states.

Damodaran has devoted his lifetime only for promoting household toilet facilities for the rural poor, urban poor, people living in the coastal regions, tribal areas and in town panchayats. He has worked closely with the Centre, State Governments and international donor organisations.

He has also been involved in the sanitation programmes such as CRSP introduced in the 1980s, TSC in the 1990s, NBA in the 2000s and Swachh Bharat Mission Programme launched in 2014.

Damodaran has empowered thousands of women and adolescent girls economically, socially and in terms of health through household toilet usage and hygiene education.

On October 2, 2017, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu honoured Damodaran with the ‘Toilet Titan Award’.

Mission Paani, an initiative by News18 and Harpic India, aims to create awareness towards access to clean water, safe sanitation and hygiene for all. The campaign aims at creating awareness about safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene by amplifying all efforts made by individuals, organisations and government bodies.

S Damodaran will join an esteemed panel of guests at Mission Paani’s World Toilet Day event to share his insights on safe sanitation and hygiene for all. His expertise on inclusive sanitation will give a new direction to Mission Paani’s objective of safe sanitation and hygiene for all.

You can also be a part of Mission Paani initiative.

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