The Ganga Action Plan Phase-I, covering 25 towns in the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, comprises, inter-alia, low cost sanitation as an action plan sub-component.
While the point sources of municipal and industrial pollution are being controlled through setting up sewage diversion and treatment works and enforcing industrial effluent treatment plants, the non- point sources of pollution are prominent factors of water quality degradation in the action plan towns of UP. These are carcasses and garbage dumping, cattle-wallowing, bank side and open defecation, ghat side washing of clothes and other such bank side unhygienic activities.
These activities, besides spoiling the river front aesthetics, caused a significant impact on Ganga water quality improvement, expected from the reduction of municipal and industrial waste water pollution under the Ganga Action Plan. Thus, low cost sanitation is one of the important facets of non-point pollution source control.
While most of the above non-point sources of pollution have to be controlled by town and state authorities through preventive actions, bank side and open defecation can be stopped only by providing community toilet facilities at appropriate locations to the poorer sections of community, with easy access to children and women.
Hence, in the six towns of the Ganga Action Plan in UP about 190 community toilets have been commissioned with a seating capacity of about 2,500, incurring an expenditure of Rs 9.5 crores. Several of them are built and maintained by Sulabh International on a long term contract with the UP State Government. Some of the toilets are also maintained by the municipalities.
Nearly 50,000 beneficiaries, mostly comprising of slum dwellers, predominantly children, women and also pilgrims, have access to these toilets for hygienic use, while the river front and open-space use for defecation is reduced to a significant extent.
Though the low cost sanitation formed about 6 per cent of the cost of the Ganga Action Plan Phase-I, its contribution to river front aesthetics and water quality improvement is considerable, being an essential social amenity to the poor, downtrodden and their womenfolk in Ganga Action Plan towns.
Under Ganga Action Plan, it was observed that the open defecation by poorer sections/slums dwellers of the towns cause pollution of Ganga despite the sewage treatment plants apart from unhygienic and unaesthetic river fronts. The individual house-holds had neither the resources nor space to have individual toilets and independent water supply and sewerage connection. To meet this essential need of the urban weaker sections, massive programmes on community toilets have been taken up, locating them to the best convenience of these slums and reduce the aesthetic and hygienic problems of the river front on this account. These 190 community toilets serve nearly fifty thousand slum dwellers, mostly children and women, and have been accepted well by the community.