Wed, 2014-05-28 11:47 — admin
Kathmandu, May 27, 2014: In a revelation that could call into question the credibility of the government’s Open Defecation Free (ODF) campaign, people in a remote village of Makawanpur, which was declared an ODF district last year, are found to have been defecating in the open, polluting the water source used by the locals in the cholera-hit Gaidatar village of Rautahat district.
On July 19 last year, Makawanpur was declared as Nepal’s ninth ODF district, which meant that all 86,127 households in the district have toilets. However, in the wake of the cholera outbreak, which has reportedly killed at least two people so far, it has been disclosed that around 100 households in Dhiyal village of Makawanpur district, which shares its border with Gaidatar of the newly-declared Chandranigahapur municipality in Rautahat, lack toilets.
“Around 100 out of 300 households in the ward number 6 of Dhiyal village do not have toilets,” said Chief of the District Public Health Office (DPHO) of Makawanpur Madhu Sudan Koirala. “They defecate mostly in local rivulets that eventually enter into other streams from where the Gaidatar folks get drinking water.”
On Tuesday, Koirala visited Dhiyal village and was surprised to find many households lacking toilets in an ODF district. He had visited Dhiyal following unconfirmed reports that the Gaidatar cholera outbreak was a result of pollution caused by open defecation. “I don’t know how Makawanpur was declared an ODF district despite the fact that all households still do not have toilet facilities here,” said Koirala, who reached there as DPHO chief only recently.
According to Ram Krishna Thapa, chief of social development section of Makawanpur District Development Committee (DDC), the fact that the Dhiyal folks lacked toilets was overlooked while declaring Makawanpur as an ODF district because there is a dispute over whether this village is located in Makawanpur or Rautahat. “Dhiyal sits right on the border of Makawanpur and Rautahat,” said Thapa. “So, we did not consider Dhiyal as a village of Makwanpur when we declared our district an ODF area.”
However, information posted on the official website of the Makawanpur DDC dismisses Thapa’s claim. On the website, it has been mentioned that Dhiyal is a village of Makawanpur and the secretary of the Dhiyal VDC is accountable to the Makawanpur DDC, not Rautahat DDC.
According to Narayan Timilsina, former vice chairman of Dhiyal VDC, even those who have toilets in Dhiyal village prefer to defecate in the open due to lack of water. “In our village, water sources have almost dried up,” said Timilsina. “The villagers have to spend around three hours to fetch a bucket of water. So, they do not want to waste water in cleaning toilets. Instead, they look for open areas where they can defecate.”
In the ward number 6 of Dhiyal village, most of the locals belong to Tamang community, one of Nepal’s highly-marginalized indigenous communities. They are landless squatters and have no regular income sources. “So, despite living in an ODF district, they lack courage to ask local authorities to help them build toilets,” said Timilsina.
The revelation about Dhiyal village hints at possibility that other ODF districts might also have areas where some households still lack toilets. As per the latest report released by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), 13 districts, along with 14 municipalities and 1133 VDCs, have already been declared ODF zones in Nepal. To help Nepal achieve its national goal of having toilets in all households by 2017, many development partners have extended their support.
Bhojendra Aryal, an officer at the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DoWSS), says, “Many districts, municipalities and VDCs seem to be in an unnecessary competition to be declared ODF. So, some have declared themselves ODF without ensuring that all households have toilets.”
As per the 2011 census report, around 38 per cent of households still lack toilets in Nepal. As the government aims to bring the percentage of households lacking toilets to zero in Nepal within less than four years from now, pressure to declare ODF districts, municipalities and villages is obviously high.
In Gaidatar, which is some 50 kilometers from Gaur, the district headquarters of Rautahat, people have no choice but to drink water from polluted sources. In the last one month alone, over 700 people, mostly children, women and elderly, have been infected with cholera, which local health authorities says has already spiraled out of control.
A high level team comprising Minister of Health and Population Khagraj Adhikari reached Gaidatar of Rautahat district on Tuesday to inspect the cholera epidemic, which started a month ago. Concerned authorities and doctors have confirmed feces contamination in the stream water in the village and urged the villagers to drink filtered water only.
The high level team including Adhikari, health secretary Rajendra Shrestha, Director of the Department of Health, Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, Baburam Marasini, Director of Vector Control Division Bishwaraj Khanal, Regional Director of MOH Ananda Shrestha, Dr Santosh Thakuri of the Department of Ayurveda, CA member Dr Bansidhar Mishra, and Ram Kumar Bhattarai had met with a number of patients at the health camp at the Janashakti Secondary School at Gaidatar. (Source: Om Astha Rai, Myrepublica.com)