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January 2021
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Columns
Hygiene: Public efforts too needed
 
K. Gopalakrishnan

Come the monsoons and diseases and miseries follow. This is a feature every year. Blame game goes on about the persons responsible. The easiest target is the state government and the health department. The reason is almost the same for decades: Failure to complete the pre-monsoon cleaning of drainages, particularly the storm water ones. Government would as usual give details of the work done and money spent.

But as the season gets over, the much needed steps to be taken are also forgotten. The public and media too move to another controversy, finding one is not difficult in this Gods Own Land. The Devil is always there to help out. If there is no controversy one is always invented.

One important factor is always forgotten. To keep the environment clean, the responsibility is also with the citizen. After all, majority of the land is with the citizen. With a little effort the citizen can contribute a lot to keep the environment hygienic. The domestic waste can be managed profitably through compost pits and if possible made more useful through gas plants. Government is providing subsidy for such disposal of waste.

There is technical guidance too. This is applicable only in houses with a compound. In the cases of houses with small compounds and flats, societies like Kudumbashree, which is attracting national and international attention for its admirable contributions to the society, to dispose the waste and make manure which has a ready market, thanks to the green movement, can do a great job. Such disposals through many small units are the most hygienic. When the whole waste of a town or city is disposed off in a massive plant it involves huge investments and locating a suitable place for proper treatment is difficult.

Transporting the waste to long distances also leads to problems. in many cases the waste drops and litters the roads and side-ways. It is within the resources of small communities to put up small disposal plants. If cooperative societies can be formed to build flats and colonies why not such cooperative ventures to live in a clean environment to?

If builders can undertake luxury flats with swimming pools, club houses and play area, why not include socially useful amenities like waste disposal and rain water trapping and storage. If one can find resources for a proper dwelling, nobody would grudge paying for these essential arrangements. After all are we not paying for the fire fighting arrangements in group housing schemes? The government too can come out with legislation making it mandatory for these arrangements in every housing plan before sanction or approval.

The problem is a number of people are used to pushing the waste outside one’s flat or house in the darkness either throwing it onto the road which is made into a feast of by stray dogs which in turn become another menace to the society. Similarly every eating place, be it five star or not, should have a proper toilet for the ladies and gents, as well as arrangement for waste disposal. The government or the local authority should give licence only after ensuring these facilities are built. Health officers should regularly check the cleanliness of these hotels and amenities failing which the licence should be cancelled.

Above all, there should be proper awareness programmes to educate the people about the need for a clean environment. It is no exaggeration that literate Kerala is rather illiterate about such a need though he or she is particular about personal hygiene or clean inside of their dwelling units. Outside their living units, they are not bothered and want the government or local authorities to step in for everything. Even the resident welfare associations ignore this aspect of clean environment of their area.

Equally important is health education in schools from primary levels. A child must be taught proper brushing (many children and adults do not know how to use a toothbrush) of teeth either with paste or dental powder. Elementary essentials like washing the hands before meals, clean cut nails, etc. need to be explained. If in schools the children are taught from primary class onwards the need for a hygienic living and the practises to be followed, it would go a long way in keeping the state clean.

For a child can be the catalyst. If he or she insists at home the adoption of such practices, the elders would naturally follow. It may take some time to sink in, but definitely would have results in a year or two. For keeping diseases out of one’s house, everyone should be willing to adopt healthy practices and maintain a clean environment. But he or should be made aware. Building modern flats will not help, one should be aware of the need to keep dirt out and explained the need to live in hygienic surroundings.

Unfortunately in Kerala everything is left to the government, be it the LDF or UDF. Everyone wants the government to do what the citizen can also attempt. Well, it is for the government definitely to keep the hospitals clean and stock enough medicines before the monsoon. Also to ensure that enough doctors, nurses and other medical attendants are in place in every government hospital.

Further, the hospitals should have their own waste disposal arrangements. Medical waste can be deadly. If this medical waste with the rain sinks down and mixes with underground water, the main water source, it can play havoc. We had such unfortunate incidents which cost many lives in Kottayam District owing to the irresponsibility of some hospitals there. The report of this by a research institute in Pune was promptly suppressed.

Undoubtedly the government should play its role. But the citizen too can do a lot. Hygiene and clean environment of a state is the responsibility of all, everyone has to contribute. If all move together a clean environment can be achieved and these annual visits of the deadly germs can be kept out.


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