TODAY -

Odisha shows the way in waste management

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi *



Come World Environment Day on June 5, many organisations will be putting up a great pomp and show to publicise their ‘tokenisms’, but those doing real work on the ground that makes a difference prefer to remain in the background, and do not make a song and dance out of their useful work on the ground. Most often, it is the work that they do that does impact the man on the street, and benefits those at the bottom of the pyramid.

There are plenty of selfless people and organisations that do meaningful work, not because they have to but because they want to, in the overall interests of the people. In this context, I wish to speak about a recent initiative of Odisha Government that seeks to scale up its Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSM) and Plastic Waste Management across the State.

For this, the Odisha Government came up with a simple, out in the open and yet hidden from public eyes idea– to extend and leverage its existing urban facilities and services to nearby gram panchayats for the safe management of faecal sludge and plastic waste generated in villages.

The Government roped in multilateral body, UNICEF which works for the welfare of the children worldwide including infants and their mothers and Centre for Policy Research to help in the multi-departmental effort to improve the overall waste management.

Launched last year, the first phase of the programme was to cover seven districts for this intervention. For this, Ganjam district was identified as the pilot project where different models were to be experimented, and learnings there to be applied in the six districts.

Real action on the ground started on February 7 this year after all planning process were complete. No detail was left out, so thorough was the planning.

Am mentioning these here just to give an idea as to how many things that the executioners of socially useful projects have to keep in mind when putting such a programme in place, and later in executing them. At any step, the programme could go awry, and this is the challenge before any Government when embarking on welfare programmes that address health, sanitation, and environmental concerns.

These processes included preliminary survey, tagging of GPs with nearest ULBs, selection of pilot clusters, detailed household survey in pilot GPs, fixation of fee structures for Cesspool services, formulating model wise Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), redesigning of Safa App (for easy access of the rural people to FSM and PWM services ) and engagement of Swachhata Sahayak at Gram Panchayat level for managing and coordinating entire Urban Rural Convergence for FSM and PWM.

Along with these activities, capacity building workshops were also conducted for the ULB, Block and GP officials, Swachhata Sahayaks, Cesspool Drivers & FSTP Operators and to streamline the ground level interventions. Sounds a mouthful, don’t they ?

But it is efficient implementation of the pilot project and the encouraging results put Odisha at the front of the FSM in urban areas with Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants now operating in 45 Urban local Bodies (ULBs) and under construction in all the remaining ULBs of the State. In 2018, The Dhenkanal Municipality became the first smaller towns in the country to implement a citywide system for FSM under the collaborative Project Nirmal. The Municipality commissioned a gravity-based FSTP capable of treating 27 kilolitres of faecal sludge per day (KLD).

Here in this initiative, what is worth appreciating is the fact that Government agencies, multilateral bodies and their partners, in this case the Centre for Policy Research worked in close coordination for the success of the first Urban Rural convergence.

Experts from the UNICEF and expertise it offered came in very handy in setting up a very unique chain from conceptualisation of the plan, formulation of strategies and their effective implementation on the ground–at every step the tuning and chemistry between the people from different organisations meant only one thing–achieving the overall improvement in health, sanitation for the people across the State.

It is well known that a clean environment is essential of human health and well-being. Which is why the Odisha Government initiative assumes greater significance for the people. Environmental issues like pollution, hazardous chemicals and even noise have the potential to affect health.

So it is in the fitness of things that we remember and thank the people who are working for a cleaner environment, on the World Environment Day, for the job they are doing. Other than different Governments, many organisations are carrying out focused work to better the environment as concerns over global environmental degradation rise, amid fears of global warming and resultant extreme weather conditions that are creating havoc–extreme heat waves, or untimely heavy rain. Climate change and its effects are real and are being felt across the globe, and we in India are also witnessing some of the after effects.

Leaders across the globe are worried as deteriorating environment has a direct bearing on global climatic conditions, which in turn have their impact on the economic situation as well. Increasing awareness over the situation, and people’s connect with nature, is probably the least that we can do to mitigate the situation somewhat in the hope that every individual does his bit on combating the global problem that is staring us in the face.

For India, it is clear that water and sanitation, or the poor quality and their scarcity, have impacted our environment. It is clear that these two issues need to be addressed on a war footing. When viewed in this context, the initiative of the Odisha Government appears to be both timely and important.


* Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political changes across the country.
He was associated with the Press Trust of India, The Hindu, Sunday Observer and Hindustan Times.
He can be reached on kvlakshman(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 28 2022.



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