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Inclusive sanitation drive

Women and transgender self-help groups to operate and maintain four septage treatment plants
Transgender SHG members sign a contract with Cuttack Municipal Corporation commissioner Ananya Das  (left)

Subhashish Mohanty   |   Bhubaneswar   |   Published 07.06.20, 08:50 PM

The Naveen Patnaik government has handed over the operation and maintenance work of four septage treatment plants to women and transgender self-help groups in a path-breaking decision towards women’s empowerment and inclusive sanitation.

Agreements were signed between the urban local bodies and self-help groups on Friday handing over the treatment plant management to women’s groups in Berhampur, Baripada and Sambalpur and another to a transgender group in Cuttack.

Each self-help group will get around Rs 1.5 lakh per annum, sources said.

Minister for housing and urban development Pratap Jena said, “Self-help groups are now at the forefront of all developmental activities, including sanitation, in Odisha and have proven their ability time and again. Women self-help groups have been managing the operation and maintenance of community toilets very well across several cities. So, we took this decision of handing over the operation and maintenance of the septage treatment plants to these groups for better community ownership and participation.”

Principal secretary, housing and urban development, G. Mathi Vathanan, said, “The self-help groups have been chosen after careful evaluation of their capacities and past track record and have been trained thoroughly and rigorously on different aspects of operation and maintenance. The urban local bodies will continue to provide handholding assistance and technical support shall continue to the groups during the agreement period to make the partnership successful.

“We are happy that the transgender and women self-help groups have come up to the level of managing a septage treatment facility, which require technical and managerial skills. They were earlier managed by engineers of the department.”

Odisha has been a frontrunner in faecal sludge and septage management in the country. With this initiative, it has now gone to another level of community management of sanitation facilities and building sustainable measures. “Besides these four cities, self-help groups will also be engaged in other functions as well as future septage treatment plants,” Vathanan said.

“It is a momentous event for the self-help groups and all our members involved in this activity. We have completed training on operation and maintenance of the plant and are really excited to take over the management,” said Swapna Rani Tripathy, a member of the Agrata city-level federation of the group that will run the plant at Mohuda in Berhampur.

The groups will now be responsible for the daily operation and maintenance of the plants, which includes managing the entry of all cesspool vehicles for discharging faecal sludge, regular treatment, minor repairs, upkeep and management of the staff, etc. The facilities will also reuse the treated sludge as co-compost for the nearby nursery and the wastewater for watering plants and lawns.

With over 90 additional septage treatment plants coming up in the state by next year, and more than 32,000 self-help groups spread across 114 towns and cities, community engagement for operation and maintenance of sanitation facilities holds enormous potential.

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