Bijaya Kumar Dash assumed office as Executive Officer of Puri Municipality, Odisha, in 2019. Envisioning inclusive sanitation for all sections of society, his leadership has been focused on actively diagnosing gaps and weaknesses in the sanitation service delivery of Puri.

The city of Puri has both centralised and decentralised infrastructure for blackwater management. There is a 15 MLD Sewage Treatment Plant that uses aerated lagoon technology and a 50 KLD Septage Treatment Plant which has co-treatment technology. The sewage plant has been operational since 2013 at 75% capacity while the septage plant, commissioned in 2017 has been slightly underutilised at 50% capacity. The underutilisation of the septage treatment plant has been because of various reasons, such as, the presence of centralised infrastructure, inability of vehicles to reach households especially in the old town and low demand due to enforcement of lockdown.


LEADERSHIP THAT ENSURED SAFE SANITATION IN THE PANDEMIC

The pandemic forced the entire world to come to a pause – a phenomenon this generation had never seen before. However, this sparked the citizens of Puri to become more aware and diligent about issues related to sanitation and personal hygiene. The increased demand generation pushed the local authorities to cater to the growing needs of sanitation services such as, drain cleaning, door to door collection, etc. People from all strata of society, including the city's most vulnerable residential areas, came together and worked collectively to address the new challenge by lending a hand in source segregation and getting their septic tanks cleaned.

Under the leadership of Mr. Dash, the Puri Municipality also engaged Swachh Sathis and Swachh supervisors from Self-Help Groups (SHGs) for community mobilisation of Solid Waste Management. Since these Swachh Sathis and Swachh Supervisors were already working on ground throughout the lockdown period, they were looped in for Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) services as well with a lucrative incentive per trip from the private operators to get requisitions from the citizens for Faecal Sludge Management services. In order to effectively provide sanitation delivery services, the task of desludging services was outsourced to private vendors.

"For the first time ever, the Puri Municipality adopted digital transactions following all the COVID guidelines, and making it even more convenient for the customers"

Further, Mr. Dash earnestly worked to assess the accessibility of sanitation service in urban slums to tackle COVID-19 as many urban slum and low-income populations had poor health. In pre-COVID times, sanitation services were carried out only in the night but during the pandemic, Puri Municipality started catering to urban poor clusters in the daytime by procuring a small cesspool vehicle. The success of these efforts during the pandemic is being sustained by the Municipality, where citizens can visit the municipality office to request desludging services.

“We fell short of sanitation workers on the ground eventually”, informed Mr. Dash. While the Covid-19 pandemic has driven many of us into our homes to safeguard our health, it was important to recognise and address sanitation workers’ vital needs and realise their right to a safe working environment.

"So, how do we provide support and acknowledgement to sanitation workers engaged in these essential services? We ensured their safety, prompt resolution, recognition and gave them the respect they deserve, which has paved the way for a more motivated workforce on the ground"

GOING FORWARD

 

 

“We plan to introduce a digital requisition and digital fee collection system in the coming year for a more functional approach towards monitoring sanitation progress. Much more needs to be done to build pumping systems, sharper analytic skills, better partnerships, and proper awareness around sanitation”, concluded Mr. Dash.

In a nutshell, tackling sanitation requires generating significant support and avoiding a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in implementation. In order to reach more marginalised communities and address the different needs they may have, targeted and tailored strategies for each group can provide more support to local city sanitation plans.


National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance

The National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance is a collaborative body, convened in 2016 and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working with governments and decision-makers across the country at national, state and city levels to drive safe and sustainable urban sanitation in India.

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