Odisha: At least 37 million Odias, that is almost 90 per cent of people, defecate in the open daily!

Odisha, March 15, 2012: The Census 2011 figures for water and sanitation are just out.  It confirms how the industry crazy Odisha state has earned another dubious distinction of being the state with highest percentage of households without having toilets.

Based on these figures, Water Initiatives Odisha (WIO) arrives at a rough calculation to find out that at least 37 million people of the state that accounts for almost 90 per cent of the state would be defecating in the open!  The total households of the state as per the Census 2011 is 9661085, out of which 7535646 (78%) do not have toilets.  Counted at an average of 5 persons per household this comes to 37678230 people. 

The rural Odisha figures are worst.  Households without any form of a latrine in the rural areas of the state are a whopping 85.9 per cent.  In urban areas the figure is 35.2 per cent.  Obviously the health and hygiene of the rural population is more at risk than that of the urban areas, WIO asserts.  A state which is boasting of investments in industries and mining all in the name of development fails miserably in providing sanitation cover to its people.  We need urgent attention of the government to convert the state from an ‘open defecating state’ to a ‘defecating with dignity state’.

Among the states and union territories of the country, Jharkhand shares this dubious distinction with Odisha.  That state’s 78 per cent households too do not have latrine facilities.  Bihar with 76.9 per cent of non-coverage occupies the second position.

In so far as drinking water availability is concerned, only 13.8 per cent of the households have tap water at their homes.  The rest depend on wells (19.5%), hand pumps & tube wells (61.4%) and other sources (5.2%).  The decadal trend has shown a decrease of dependence on well by 9.1 points and that of ‘other sources’ by 2.1 points.  However, the increase in provisioning of tap water that has increased by only 6.1 points compared to the figure of 2001 is not at all encouraging.  In the rural Odisha only 7.5 per cent of households have tap water.  What is more important to note here in a state which is always in news for malnutrition, diarrhoea, etc. is that only 10 per cent of all the source of water used in the state for drinking is treated!  This is because only 72 per cent of the mere 13.8 per cent tap water accessed by households in the state is treated.  Besides, a meagre 11 per cent of all the wells used for drinking water are covered.  It is not therefore unnatural to find out severe health hazards in the state.

The survey also points out to another painful reality.  While only 22.4 per cent households of the state have water sources within their premises, the rest about 77.6 households still have to bring water from outside.  At least 35.4 per cent households still have to bring water from sources that are away from their habitations.  This is still worse at about 38.5 per cent in Odisha’s rural areas.  In many places of the state we see women walking kilometres to fetch drinking water.  This speaks volumes how the women of Odisha are the most vulnerable to drudgery and health problems due to this day to day struggle they have to face.

WIO believes the way we are industrializing with almost all our rivers and other water sources getting overstressed, water and sanitation woes of the state is going to increase further.  This is high time the government recognizes ‘Water and Sanitation’ as a basic human right and gears up to provide cent per cent water supply and sanitation – in ample quantity and acceptable quality – to all citizens of the state. (Report by OrissaDiary.com bureau; Sambalpur)

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