September 2015

A clean, fresh start

Sanitation was never perceived as an issue by the tribals of Nagaland until the locals began to learn and practice the use of toilet facilities

K. Among, a resident of Longra village, Noksen block in Nagaland’s Tuensang district, was a proud man. He was one of the few people, who had a toilet with plastic sheet for a roof, and bamboo mats to cover the septic pit and the super structure. Others in the village either thatched their structures or covered it with bamboo which is easily available. So he didn’t see the need to construct a new toilet. It was only when he began attending the training sessions organised by North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA), Kohima and Eleutheros Christian Society (ECS), Tuensang, that he realised that his toilet was neither safe nor hygienic.
 
Sanitation was never perceived as an ‘issue’ by the tribals of Nagaland. Until the early 1950s, people defecated in open fields. It was only when American missionaries became frequent visitors to Nagaland that the locals began to learn and practice the use of toilet facilities. Here, in Longra village, which was chosen as the target village of the WATSAN project under the Trusts’ Tata Water Mission, a rough survey showed that while open defecation was not the norm, defecation was semi-open: ‘toilets’ were usually pits in the ground, covered by bamboo, while the structure itself was constructed with easily available local materials. The villagers had no idea of the cause-effect relationship between open toilets and the spread of diseases.

Among took note of the importance of having a good, sanitary toilet. In his free time, he began collecting local materials such as boulders and timber. Having attended the project team’s training sessions on how to construct a toilet in April 2015, he dug a deep pit, as advised by the project staff and community mobiliser. It took him two days to complete the task. Then, with the help of four group members, he constructed a new toilet using 400 boulders, 25 tins of stone chips and 15 cu. ft. of timber. Among is very happy that he now has a low cost twin pit toilet. “Even when the staff used to say that I would soon have a permanent toilet, I didn’t think it could be true,” he says. “Now I have a clean toilet that does not smell, and I’m also encouraging my neighbours to construct proper toilets for themselves.”