Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sanitation raises a stink in settlements for victims - The Hindu

by Ramya Kannan

Recent rain compounds the issue, causing flooding in many areas

CHENNAI: In a State where the progress of post-tsunami rehabilitation has largely been consistent over the last three years, inappropriately-addressed sanitation issues have begun to raise a stink.

The inappropriateness of sanitation projects implemented in the tsunami-hit districts of the State, especially in rural, coastal Tamil Nadu, has never been as clear as it has been in the last six months, when large-scale resettlement to permanent shelters took place.

With more and more people shifting to permanent buildings constructed by various NGOs based on specifications provided by the Government, sanitation or the lack of it, is threatening to grow into a big issue. The recent rain has further compounded the issue, causing flooding in many areas.
Unusable toilets

Cause for concern: Sewage overflowing at Tsunami Nagar. (Right) An Ecosan toilet at Shanmuga Nagar, Parangaipettai in Cuddalore. —

Tamizhmani, who lives in Tsunami Nagar, Cuddalore, had stopped worrying about the unusable toilet in her home until the monsoon arrived. With flood waters inundating the vast area near the settlement used by the locals for defecation, Tamizhmani has realised that it is essential for her to repair the toilet at any cost. “I could not use it right from the beginning. It clogs up with sand. Also, during the rains, the water too is contaminated.” Cuddalore collector Rajendra Ratnoo says fisherfolk are unused to toilets and this is part of the problem.

The local Tsunami Resource Centre has been commissioned to study acceptability and usage of toilets in the permanent shelters, he adds.

In Nagapattinam too, where people in some areas continue to live in temporary shelters while others have moved to the permanent houses, basic amenities are still in question.
Complaints galore

Residents charge that access to protected drinking water and good sanitation has been ignored. As pit latrines, septic tanks and soak pits had not being constructed properly, the areas were inundated with sewage after the rains.
Contaminated water

Those in Colachel and Melamanakudi in Kanyakumari complain of contaminated drinking water.

Antony Sami of BLESS, a Cuddalore-based NGO involved in building houses, sanitation issues arise primarily because of the natural soil conditions and non-involvement of the community in building plans. In most areas, toilets have been constructed with technologies unsuited to the sandy soil and high water table of the coastal areas.

Alternative technologies, such as the Ecosan dry toilets are also being tried out, as in Shanmuga Nagar, Cuddalore. C.V. Shankar, Officer on Special Duty, Tsunami Rehabilitation programme, says cognisance has been taken of the issue.

In the coming year, attention will be paid to constructing decentralised water treatment plants in the urban areas.

In rural areas, he said, local solutions would be utilised to improve the situation.

(With inputs from K.Subramanian, Nagapattinam and P.Suresh Kumar, Kanyakumari)


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