Nepal is in a race – to achieve an ODF (Open Defecation Free) status – the plan is to beat India – they intend to become an ODF status country on 2nd October, 2019. However, as Nepal and India race to the finish line, they are seeming to forget the purpose of the initiative – ‘better health through proper sanitation’.
For example, on Tuesday, Kathmandu, one of the 11 districts remaining to gain ODF status declared themselves to be one. However, that is human shit – open defecation in several areas of the valley is prominent, public areas such as parks, open areas, and river banks being the most common.
The obvious reason for the human feces on public areas is attributed to the lack of public toilets in KMC – however none of the municipalities tried to address that. They simply raced to the finish line – declaring the district an ODF district, because apparently “all 292,452 households of Kathmandu have toilets” – meanwhile Kathmandu residents continue to defecate outside because, (i) the ratio of residents living in a building/area to the availability of toilets is low, (ii) lack of a public facility when in need of one, (iii) some people simply like taking a dump out in the open (lack of proper sanitation awareness).
Nepal aims to become ODF nation by September 30 – 10 more districts (Bhojpur, Solukhumbu, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Sindhupalchowk, Sarlahi and Kapilavastu) are yet to achieve the status. One of the two will happen – either Nepal will power through by declaring all districts ODF, or we will miss the deadline.
While we may lose some face if we miss the deadline, powering through would probably have dire consequences – for much besides placing toilets has to be achieved in many of the ten districts, and the other districts which have gained ODF status too. Perhaps, a broader outlook is necessary – where we focus on better sanitation habits than forcing homes to build a toilet in their homes.
If we are worried about losing to India – well, they are powering through too. While many Indian homes have newly built toilets – reports say they prefer not to use it. Many non-governmental (and a few governmental) agencies in India are working towards educating the public about better sanitation habits – one we will need to focus on in the near future too.
Note: All 20 local units of Sarlahi have been declared ODF free in August, 2019 – they just await their status confirmation.