India could do with more such novel ways to drive up toilet usage as Ahmedabad’s ‘use and get paid’.
India being a country where open defecation/urination is a almost a way of life for many—only 46.9% of 24.66 crore households, as per the 2011 Census, have sanitary toilets—it can be imagined that its civic authorities would explore all methods, even those outside the book, to drive up usage of toilets. In that vein, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, plans to pay—R1 per use—to encourage use of public toilets. It has identified 120 areas in the city where open defecation is common, and plans to rope in all public toilets in these areas to address this. Not everybody will be eligible for the “incentive”, though—the Corporation plans to identify those without access to a toilet and motivate them to use the public facilities instead of relieving themselves in the open.
While such moves, hopefully, could sensitise those in urban areas against open defecation, the challenging bit to effect this change in rural areas. More than 67% of rural households go in the open. But, while 20% of households without toilets in urban areas, as per WHO data, use public toilets, only 5% of such households in rural areas use public/shared facilities. The reasons for this could be many, from the lack of running water at such facilities to poor standards of cleaning and upkeep. The Swacch Bharat Abhiyan envisages a 100% open-defecation free India by 2019. At present, nearly 10 crore rural households still don’t have access to toilets. Even with 100% coverage, sensitising the population against open defecation will still pose a tough challenge. That is where innovative methods—like Ahmedabad’s “use and get paid”—will help drive the required change.