Ramanathapuram's tryst with total sanitation

Thursday, December 4, 2014 - 12:07
2002 marked the beginning of a journey that managed to inspire several panchayat leaders and workers in Ramanathapuram. The Total Sanitation Campaign was launched in June that year and within a year's time, over 15,000 individual toilets were up and functional. Close to 250 schools had toilets with running water and nearly 400 Balwadis were equipped with functional toilet. 
Panchayat leaders, NGO workers and project officials got down and dirty to make sure that all houses in their concerned jurisdictions had proper sanitation infrastructure. A committed staff with quality training and orientation helped set the pace. Prompt funding support from the state and central government kept the ball rolling. 
Getting people to use toilets instead of going out in the open is mostly about altering attitudes and behavior. Enthusiastic project staff made best use of all the Information Education Communication (IEC) materials such as flip charts and street plays to win the attention of the village folk. This helped make the transition from open fields to toilets relatively smoother. The demand for toilets thus came from within rather than being forced from the outside.
Masons were trained in constructing cost effective toilets with simple designs. Community acceptance and involvement was ensured at every stage so as to prevent toilets from becoming storage spaces in the future. All this was made possible because of the synergistic action of all the governmental and non governmental agencies involved.
Holistic development
Efforts were not just restricted to the construction and use of toilets. Several Panchayats in the district took to managing their solid waste locally, creating job opportunities for villagers as well as reducing the cost incurred by the Panchayat annually to dispose of waste. 
Located in one of the more drought prone regions of the state, harvesting rainwater assumes immense significance in Ramnad. Many taluks in the district rose up to the task and managed to drought proof their locale by ensuring that all houses harvested rainwater. Michealpattinam Village Panchayat led by its enthusiastic President Sesumary managed to have all 340 houses install rainwater harvesting structures; an inspiration to several neighbouring Panchayats. 
Ramanathapuram proved to be an overall WATSAN leader in the so-called ‘dry’region in south Tamil Nadu. The district’s successes motivated several local and block level leaders in the neighboring areas to adopt some of Ramanathapuram’s rewarding methods to herald greener and cleaner towns and villages in the region.