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Odisha: Poor sanitation brings misery to Cuttack Slums

 

Updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

Odisha, Cuttack, Sanitation, Slum  
 

Known for its traditions and the handicraft of filigree, Odisha's oldest city of Cuttack is yet to offer a healthy life to its slum dwellers. Hundreds of people residing in the slums of Cuttack suffer from diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dengue, malaria and various gastroenteritis diseases every year due to the unhygienic surrounding and contaminated water.

 
Binita Jaiswal  
 

Nearly 35% of Cuttack’s six lakh citizens live in the slums. But when it comes to basic civic facilities like sanitation, the administration always tends to forget them.

There are 309 slums in the city out of which at least 200 are authorized ones, while the remaining 109 are unauthorized slums. According to Cuttack Municipal Corporation officials, over two lakh people reside in these slums. But the slum dwellers live in extremely poor sanitary condition. Filthy drains, contaminated water, garbage heaps, damaged roads, chocked sewers are a common sight in almost all the slums in the city. Due to poor cleanliness, outbreak of diseases is also quite common in the slums. However, Municipal Corporation hardly bothers to improve the sanitation condition of the slums or to clean them.

 

Every year, hundreds of people residing in the slums suffer from various diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dengue, malaria and other gastroenteritis diseases due to the unhygienic surrounding and contaminated water.

“After outbreak of the diseases, teams of the health officials rush to the spot and the civic body also promise to ensure adequate cleanliness in the area. But inevitable happens. The authorities only make promises,” said Brundaban Azad, president of All Odisha Jhopad Patti Mahasangh. The slum dwellers have alleged that government ignores the unsanitary condition in the slums.

“No municipality worker comes here to clean the roads or clear the drains. The heaps of garbage lies in the slums for days together and no one comes to clean it up,” said Kalia Rout, a dweller of Hairanpur slum.

This is not the plight of Hairanpur slum dwellers only. Dwellers of all the 309 slums in the city live a life of similar misery and pain.

“We are forced to live in such unhygienic and unhealthy condition. The heaps of garbage lying un-cleaned in the slum emanate foul smell and also prove a perfect breeding ground of mosquitoes and flies. But the civic body is not worried about our plight,” said Swarnalata Das, a dweller of the Behera sahi slum. And all this is because slums are never considered as important as other areas of the city by the administration. So services such as sanitation and garbage collection hardly reach the slums. It’s to be noted that the CMC in 2011 had introduced mechanized sweeping in the city with an aim to change the face of the city.

It was touted that the roads will shine and the slums will sparkle after introduction of mechanized sweeping, but nothing of that sort actually happened. Contrast to the civic body’s assurance of cleaning the slums regularly, the sweepers never turn up to clean the garbage.

Residents of Hairanpur slum allege that they have made repeated complaints to the municipality over the unclean roads, but nothing has been done. Now, if we are to think that every slum more or less share the same set of problems such as sewage, unclean water and road, we get a picture where the city administration is practically ignoring the need demand of over two lakh people. “We are also the residents of the city and have the right to live in a proper environment but the civic body pays no heed to our problem,” said Mangaraj, a slum dweller of Tanla Sahi slum. Almost 60% of the slums do not have proper drainage system in place. Similarly, majority of the slums do not have access to safe drinking water which adds to the woes of the slum dwellers.  Out of 309 slums, only 50 slums have the access to safe drinking water while others are forced to use the contaminated water from Taladanda canal or Kathajodi River. But the list of problem does not end here. The shortage of public toilets in the city has made the lives of slum dwellers all the more difficult. There are only 57 public toilets in the city for a population of over six lakh. The figure itself speaks about the seriousness of the problem. The number of public toilets is negligible compared to that of the population of the slums. For the 309 slums in the city there are only 57 public toilets and most of them are in dilapidated condition, not fit for use.

Due to shortage of slums, the dwellers are often forced to defecate in the open which deteriorates the sanitation condition of the slums further.

“Open defecation is an unhealthy habit but the slum dwellers do not have much choice. The administration should take measures to improve things, “said Bibhuti Ray, a social worker.

Interestingly, the CMC in 2009 had announced to make Cuttack a “slum free” city in next 10 years. But instead of decreasing the number of slums in the city is on rise. The number of slums in 2009 in Cuttack was 257 and after four years the number has increased to 309. It shows the seriousness of district administration in resolving the problems of slum dwellers.

"There is no specific development policy for the slums in Cuttack. In fact, the CMC has never bothered to chalk out a detail plan to improve the sanitation condition of the slums. The local leaders only visit the slum dwellers during elections and later tend to forget them," added Azad.

But the civic authorities have refuted the allegations. “The allegations are completely false. We have started construction work of several residential complexes to rehabilitate slum-dwellers. In the first phase, two concrete structures are being constructed at Tulasipur and Andarpur area to rehabilitate the slum dwellers. These buildings are equipped with all kinds of facilities. There is constant pressure of migration from fringe and rural areas and the number of slums is increasing every year. Still, we are trying to improve things from our end. Improvement of the sanitation condition of the slums is also a priority area in our agenda,” stated Saumendra Ghose, Mayor of Cuttack. Besides providing shelter, the government also needs to provide other civic facilities to the slum dwellers. Otherwise they will continue to live in the unhealthy condition that they do now.

(Author is a Journalist from Odisha. This particular article is written as part of the NFI media fellowship programme awarded by National foundation for India)

 
 

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