In 2015, Mr. Toilet aka Jack Sim, began a journey with the Government of Andhra Pradesh (AP) in India that was recently sealed with an MoU. The mission was to make AP state the ‘Sanitation Model of Excellence’!
The MOU with the Swachh Andhra Corporation assigns WTO with the responsibility to make AP a model state around sanitation, mainly through its interventions in four core areas – capacity building and education, IEC and behavior change and awareness activities; low-cost technology and supply chain; and financial models. In 2015, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu appointed Jack Sim, the Founder of WTO, as co-convener of Swachh Andhra Mission together with Speaker of Legislature Dr Kodela Sivaprasad Rao. Since then Jack has been working relentlessly with the AP government towards achieving open defecation-free status for the state.
The MoU signing ceremony
Andhra Pradesh (AP) is a state in the south-eastern coast of India, home to 84 million people but also one-sixth of the world population defecating in the open. It is geographically the 8th largest state in India and population wise it’s the 10th largest. Out of the total population, the rural versus urban distribution is 70.4% and 29.6% respectively, clearly demonstrating that the rural population surpasses by a huge margin. As per a government survey 6.8 million of these rural households, which constitute to a staggering 67.5% of the total, are without toilets! This is a silent cry for help.
There is sufficient existing evidence that establish a link between open defecation and stunted growth of children, undernutrition, harassment and sexual violence against women. AP was among the first states in India to launch a Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) in 1999. The TSC was revised in 2012 to form the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) and in 2014 was merged with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (The Clean India Campaign). In an attempt to combat a crisis persistent in most parts of India, in October 2014, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, decided to launch the Swachh Bharat Mission. This was a firm resolution to a “Clean India” by 2019. Unlike previous programs on sanitation, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aimed at eradicating open defecation amongst both rural and urban population in India in 5 years. This campaign was planned in multiple stages through a systematic health education program regarding sanitation and hygiene, providing effective financial help for the construction of toilets and providing effective modern and scientific solid waste management facilities both in the urban and the rural areas. The urgency to tackle the malaise also found a meaningful voice in the United Nations’ newly charted Sustainable Development Goal—6 targeting concerted action by countries to eradicate open defecation by 2030.
Jack Sim, Founder of WTO in conversation with co-convener Speaker of Legislature Dr Kodela
Where the rest of the country is aiming to achieve the goals by the end of 2019, Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken a keener interest in this matter, aiming to achieve it one year ahead – construction of more than six million household toilets by the end of 2018!
Aware of the ground realities, the Andhra Government formed the Swachh Andhra Corporation to avoid bottlenecks and speed up the execution of the program. The organization has the mandate to implement the objectives of SBM. Elimination of open defecation has such a widespread effect that the mission of this campaign goes beyond to eradicate manual scavenging; promote modern and scientific municipal solid management; affect behavioral changes regarding healthy sanitation practices; generate awareness about sanitation and its linkage with public health; and capacity argumentation for the urban local bodies to create a favourable environment for private sector participation in capital expenditure.