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Changing the behavior of Open Defecation

Building toilets for over 50% of India’s population that defecate in the open is the primary goal of the Nirmal Bharat Abhyan (the erstwhile Total Sanitation Campaign or TSC), the flagship scheme of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

The numbers under TSC indicate that 91,820,973 household toilets have been constructed which covers about 73.03% of households. The government has spent large sums of money to achieve this coverage. The current scheme allows for a subsidy of up to Rs.9200  per toilet including the labour cost to build the toilets to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Considering that the coverage was around 20% only 10 years, these numbers are impressive.

This however is only half the story. In a joint survey conducted by World Health Organization and UNICEF conducted in 2010, residents of about 54% households with toilets still continue to defecate in the open. In our research across 30 villages in North and Central Karnataka, we observed that this behavior of people not using their toilets was even higher. Its rational to conclude that people are just not aware of the importance of using toilets or they don’t understand the problems of Open Defecation.

But this is not what we saw in our conversations with the toilet owners. Most people understand that Open Defecation is not a desirable activity. They have an intention to use the toilets that they have built. But the action has been scheduled for a later time. At first, this sounds fairly counter intuitive. Why will someone go through the pain of building toilets and still not use them?  Although the toilets are subsidized, they still come at an economic cost. A classic situation where Awareness of problem does not translate into the desirable Action.

FinalMile is working on a project with Arghyam to find solutions to plug this Awareness-Action gap. There are a number of factors that explain this behavior. This Toilettrail blog has been set up to serve as a forum to discuss this wicked problem and share learnings from the project.

Some recent posts that we have published as part of this project:

Partial Usage: Cause or Consequence

A tale of two un-clicked pictures

The wicked problem of sanitation

#Irrationality #opendefecation #context #behaviour #sanitation

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