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How to sustain country’s ODF status


Last Updated: February 04, 2022, 12:27 IST

How to sustain country’s ODF status

Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared rural India open defecation free on October 2, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared rural India open defecation free on October 2, 2019, five years after the launch of the ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission, the country’s largest-ever drive for safe sanitation. Ever since the launch of the programme in 2014 rural India has achieved a massive success in reducing open defecation at an unprecedented scale.

In the first phase of Swachh Bharat Mission, between 2014 and 2019, over 11 crore toilets were built providing access to safe sanitation for over 60 people. As many as six lakh villages across 699 districts have become open defecation free, as per the official data.   

Despite the significant progress made under the Swachh Bharat Mission the main challenge is to sustain the ODF status achieved by the rural areas. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5, 2019-20) data showed that only 57% of rural households in the country have access to toilets and only five states had 100% toilet access in rural areas.

It is a tough task to sustain momentum once the goal is achieved under a government scheme. Sustaining ODF status is a multi-pronged and long-term process. Several countries have been able to maintain the ODF status after decades of consistent effort, planning and execution. After achieving the ODF status, sustainability becomes a big challenge.


To sustain the achievement towards access to toilet and behavioural change, the 2019 Economic Survey recommends “motivating the agents of change at the ground level, impart training to field agents and the appointment of sanitation ambassadors”. 

While the survey emphasises the cleaning of rivers at regular intervals, it also suggests focusing on achieving 100% disposal of solid and liquid waste. The engagement of rural communities with the sanitation agenda is behind the success of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

To make the progress permanent and to achieve a more holistic impact on sanitation, the government has undertaken the task of educating rural communities on the management of organic waste, plastic waste, water conservation etc. 

Steps that can ensure sustainability of ODF status

From digging pits to voluntarily cleaning public toilets in cities, locals play an active part in maintaining the ODF status of an area. Rewarding locals in ODF areas can also aid in sustaining the status.

A toilet must be maintained by local administrations or urban local bodies soon after it’s constructed. Once built, the community as well as household toilets are abandoned because of poor maintenance and lack of water supply. For raising awareness among the users, local administrations, in consultation with sanitation experts, can make a list of dos and don’ts to ensure that those who live in an ODF area know what to do and what to avoid to continue with the safe sanitation practices.

People who have been caught defecating openly should be identified and encouraged to use toilets. Fines can also be imposed on violators. Identifying regular violators helps in sustaining the ODF status of an area. It also brings a behavioural change in people who have been following open defecation for several years.

The sustainability and significance of ODF status should be consistently reiterated in large gatherings. From panchayat meetings to municipality meetings, authorities must discuss ill effects of open defecation with locals.

Local bodies can help in putting up a team of individuals together to work towards sustainable sanitation. Government officials, volunteers, and motivators can keep a track of the activities being undertaken to sustain the area’s ODF status.

The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS-2019-20) Round-3 data shows that 94.4% of Rural households have access to toilets and out of these 79.2% have access to their own toilets. Around 95% of individuals use toilets in rural areas, as per the survey. It’s an achievement of unprecedented scale under the Swachh Bharat Mission but the government should take all necessary steps to sustain the momentum on toilet usage as it’s quite hard for people to abandon the age-old practice of open defecation. Broken toilets, lack of proper sewage system, poor waste-management system and scarcity in water supply are some of the common reasons behind people abandoning toilets. In order to sustain the ODF status these issues should be addressed.

Mission Paani, is an initiative by News18 and Harpic India to create awareness for water conservation, safe sanitation and hygiene. The campaign aims to amplify the efforts towards access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for all.

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first published:January 03, 2022, 16:34 IST
last updated:February 04, 2022, 12:27 IST