Mana Kosam Manam – ushering in Community Sanitation through Collective Participation
Challapalli village in Divi Seema region in Andhra Pradesh is now known as “Swachha Sundara Challapalli”. Thanks to the unceasing efforts of the doctor couple T. Padmavathi and D.R.K. Prasad and their team of committed volunteers, a clean and green drive is going on non-stop in the town for over 4 1/2 years now! –be it keeping the drainages clean, road side jungle clearance, solid waste management, road side plantation, beautification of local parks, construction of pay-and-use public toilets…..the list is endless. And it all began with a simple belief that clean environment and good health are essential for a productive life.
Prior to 2014, lack of sanitation and unhygienic conditions was a way of life here. Although, the Padmavathi Hospital established by the Doctor couple had a steady stream of people coming for various health consultations, the surrounding roads and lanes were always unclean with slush and garbage all over. Open defecation was rampant. This led to spread of diseases.
Dr. Prasad gave the matter a great deal of thought….. ending open defecation could be one major solution to the problem. How can this be done?This is where the opportunity lay in doing things differently. Every morning from 3.30 am to 6.30am with the help of local people both Dr. Prasad and Dr. Padmavati stood with folded hands at the entrance of the lane that led to their hospital. It was a silent appeal to the people not to defecate in the open. This they did at a stretch for 11 months without a single day’s break! Slowly the people started understanding. Open defecation reduced to Zero.
But that wouldn’t suffice. Something more needed to be done to improve the over all sanitation in the village. He browsed through “Preventive and Social Medicine”. A sentence caught his attention, “Systematic garbage collection, cleaning the drainages and scientific garbage management, were equally important measures that require immediate attention.”
In 2014, the Government of Indialaunched the Swachha Bharat Abhiyan programme, and it was followed by Government of Andhra Pradesh setting up the Swachha Andhra Mission. Dr. Prasad took a pledge to sweep the roads in Challapalli 5 days a week for a period of 1 year.
Initially, Dr. Padmavati was not convinced with his idea, but after just few weeks, she plunged headlong into the sanitation drive undertaken by her husband. Together they began an anti-filth crusade. To begin with 15 like-minded friends joined them daily to take up cleaning of roads and drains from 4.30am to 6 am.
It came as a ‘great sanitary awakening’ and had a tremendous impact in modifying the behaviour of people. Buoyed by the success, Dr. Prasad and his team decided to integrate the community with a “sanitation revolution” that would add up much needed dynamism to the challenge of meeting the millennium development goals! Soon 200 people joined the voluntary work. Thus the Swachha Sundara Challapalli movement commenced on 12th Nov. 2014 and four years hence, is still going on non-stop.
Since the scope of work increased, Mana Kosam Manam Trust was formed to sustain the work. This way money could be voluntarily pooled in to promote the activities. It also became a body for professional-voluntary work.
The work began with strongly held beliefs: everyone counts, everyone has a role to play, and all do better when they work together.
Each day, early in the morning before dawn break, with the head lights on and with brooms, shovels, crowbars and other implements in their hands, the team of committed volunteers clean the roads and drains, take care of garbage disposal, plant trees in and around the village and so on. The efforts are directed entirely towards general cleanliness, garbage and refuse disposal.
Hitherto, as per the norms laid down by the Panchayat, garbage was collected daily from the main roads and once a week or once a fortnight from the wards. As a result, the garbage bins were perennially overflowing and people were habituated to throw garbage on the roads. To regulate this, in May 2015, Mana Kosam Manam Trust obtained permission from the Grama Panchayat to adopt 5 wards to undertake sanitation work. Each ward has 200 houses. A plan of action was drawn for garbage collection from 5 wards i.e 1000 houses, and its disposal. To do this, tractors and a trucks were purchased and drivers, coordinators, sanitation workers and Grama Deepikas were appointed.
The Grama Deepikas visited each house in the ward and collected the names and phone numbers of the residents, and informed them about the garbage collection date and time in their respective lanes. Garbage collection went on in full swing. Gradually, the scenario in the 5 wards changed.
The team membersstarted sensitising people about garbage collection and disposal. This was meant to focus the attention of the people and government on the urgent need to improve public health.
The Trust went a step ahead and adopted the main road for cleaning twice a day. The trust employed 12 sanitation workers. The Panchayat decided to pay for 6 people. By now the expenditure at the Trust rose to Rs.5 ½ Lakhs per month. Originally this arrangement was for a period of 2 months – from Dec.2015 to Jan. 2016. But stretched for 3 years! till March 2018.
Realising the fact that until daily jobs like garbage collection and disposal are undertaken by professional sanitation workers voluntary work can not be sustained,Dr. Padmavathiorganised a meeting with the Panchayat sanitation workers to understand their problems. She found their monthly take-home was woefully low. She came forward to pay them regular salary out of her pocket, and also took care of their health needs. This came as a boon to the workers. They worked with renewed vigour.
Challapalli is a fairly big village and has a sizeable floating population. The lone bus stand in the village was bereft of basic facilities like drinking water, toilets, etc. Besides it wore a dilapidated look. Dr. Padmavati took up the initiative to remodel the bus stand. To do this she sold her jewelry. The money thus raised was utilised to redo the bus stand, construct toilets, provide drinking water facility and develop a four small gardens in the premises. An underground drainage was also built. The toilets are maintained by the workers appointed by the Trust, and so is the surrounding garden.
By now, under Dr. Padmavati’s supervision, tree plantation and beautification of the village was in full swing. The Trust constructed road side gardens, beautified electric polls, laid paver tiles all along the sidewalks and planted more than 5000 plants in Challapalli. Road side garbage heaps have transformed into small gardens with flowering plants. Water Tankers are being used for watering the plants daily. By now, the Trust had a retinue of staff – Supervisors, Drivers, Gardeners, Choukidars, sanitary workers, etc. All inclusive, the expenses steadily grew to the tune of Rs,5 Lakhs! per month.
Choukidars work 24×7 on an 8 hrs shift – to restrict people from defecating in the open in different pockets in the village. As a part of social process, collective action played an important role. On 29.4.2017, Challapalli was declared an ODF village.
The Trust approached the local bodies to identify from the Government 4 spots to construct “pay & use” toilets. Rs.5 Lakhs was sanctioned for this purpose. Out of these, one “pay & use” toilet has come up in NTR park and another in Nagayalanka road. RTC built the other one. Rs.5/- is charged towards this that is utilised for purchase of cleaning material, supervisor’s salary etc.
Challapalli has a Dump Yard & Grave Yard on a 4 ½ acres piece of land. A few years ago the garbage collected from the village got dumped here, resulted in not only ecological concerns but also health hazards faced by the residents of nearby areas. Mana Kosam Manam team took upon themselves to clear the dump yard. Together, they cleaned, spruced up and transformed the dump yard into a beautiful garden,and built a grave yard and constructed a vermi compost unit with the money allotted by the Panchayat which became the admiration of the rest of the region.
As a result, Swachha Sundara Challapalli has placed the community centre stage. The emphasis on the community has been the most important factor in the success ofSwachha Sundara Challapalli.
In just over 4 years, they ushered in exemplary ideas and followed them to fruition – be it cleaning roads and drainages, constructing public use & pay toilets, remodeling the village bus stop, tree plantation, promoting solid waste management, cleaning the village dump yard and transforming it, setting up Solid Waste Management unit … the list is endless. Drs. D.R.K.Prasad and T.Padmavathi have done it all. And done it well.
All these activities had a rippling effect. Soon the neighbouring villages Ghantasala, Avanigadda and Nagayalanka the Challapalli model.
Dr. Prasad’s goal is to:
- Further sensitise the people to segregate garbage into dry and wet and hand it over to the Panchayat vehicles. This we have achieved to a great extent.
- To implement scientific management of garbage so that the village becomes litter free. ”
Thanks to the band of committed volunteers and the good will generated over the years, Mana Kosam Manam work continues non-stop….