The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Shri ?Rajiv Mehrishi, and Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Parameswaran Iyer emptied a toilet pit from a twin pit toilet in rural Maharashtra early this morning. Senior sanitation officers from States across the country, including Additional Chief Secretaries of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, followed suit to encourage use of twin pit toilets in rural India, and to de-stigmatize emptying of toilet pits by the household themselves.The twin-pit toilet is the safest toilet technology most suited to large parts of rural India and is recommended by the World Health Organization as well as the Government of India. Research has shown that one of the reasons rural households might hesitate in building and/or using this low-cost technology is the stigma associated with emptying of the pit.However, it is scientifically proven that a pit in a standard twin-pit toilet model fills up in roughly 5 years for a 6-membered family. The waste can then be easily re-directed to the second pit, and it becomes safe-to-handle compost in 6 months to 1 year, and is rich in NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) nutrients which makes it ideal for use in agriculture. In many parts of India, this is also known as sonakhaad (golden fertilizer) because of high nutritious content.Today’s pit-cleaning exercise in Pandharewadi gram panchayat, Daund block of Pune district was a step towards dispelling these myths, biases and stigmas.
Several State Principal Secretaries (Sanitation), senior officers of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), and senior officers of Maharashtra government joined in this exercise.All officers then held up the compost in their hands. Commemorative jars full of the compost were taken home by all present at the event.The pit-emptying exercise was a part of an ODF-Sustainability workshop. The Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) has made significant progress in the three and a half years since its launch. The rural sanitation coverage has more than doubled since the launch of the mission from 39% to nearly 84%. Over 7 crore toilets have been built across rural India under the Mission. As an outcome, over 3.6 lakh villages and 385 districts have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), across 17 States and Union Territories.With over half the country declared ODF, the Mission is also working on sustaining the ODF status in these areas. To that end, detailed ODF Sustainability Guidelines have also been issued, and a workshop was conducted with ODF States and districts in Pune over the last two days.Speaking at the workshop, the Secretary, Shri Parameswaran Iyer, said that along with declaring the country ODF, the Mission is working with States towards sustaining this ODF status over the years and decades to come. For this, he said, sustained behavior change efforts had to be undertaken at all levels, and the Swachhagrahis had a critical role to play in this. He also announced that the Mission will soon be launching a mass media campaign to promote twin pit toilets in rural India, featuring leading actors, Shri Akshay Kumar and Ms Bhumi Pednekar.