Nagaland is pristine and gorgeous. But one needs a strong heart and a much stronger back to enjoy the Himalayan state. The roads are dirt tracks and tourist facilities are non-existent. The infrastructure-deficit Himalayan state, however, is not a laggard on one count: toilet infrastructure, especially in its rural areas.
Recently, rural Nagaland is set as Open Defecation Free (ODF) by the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). In fact, unlike in many other sectors, SBM’s record — not just in Nagaland. — But across the Northeastern region (NE) is keeping pace with the country’s expanding sanitation coverage. According to the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, five out of seven states are ODF, with Assam and Tripura are the the exceptions.
The NE’s good ODF record, experts say, it is due to several reasons. First, high literacy levels. Second, strong community institutional structures (church groups, students’ organisations, youth groups, and village-level water and sanitation committees. Which ensures that all members of a community adhere to decisions such as banning open defecation). Third is a progressive mindset with a strong focus on a group approach covers aspects of water, sanitation and hygiene.
Then fourth, an absence of any caste-type ritual pollution and purity concerns. Which often make people resist the idea of building toilets inside their homes (a problem in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar). The negative impact such pollution-purity issues could have on the pace and success of SBM has been well documented by economists Diane Coffey and Dean Spears in Where India Goes, Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development and the Costs of Caste.
However, the commendable gains made by these Himalayan states (the Centre bears 90% of the cost of building a toilet in these states), despite their undulating topography, may take a hit in the future due to an emerging water crisis. Has a spark of deforestation .(Which will impact rainfall, soil health and consequently water availability). Overpopulation (which will put stress on existing natural resources), and climate change (which will also affect water availability, among other things).