Mumbai: Dharavi to get city's biggest hygiene and sanitation community center

Clean toilets, affordable drinking water and laundry services are not commonly associated with overpopulated and congested slums in Mumbai, However, an initiative by Hindustan Unilever in partnership with BMC's Swacch Bharat Abhiyan is making this possible. Suvidha centre - A First-Of-Its-Kind Urban Water, Hygiene And Sanitation Community Center, will now be set up in Dharavi.

It is the 6th such centre in Mumbai.

It is a purpose-built, sustainable community centre that addresses the sanitation, hygiene, drinking water, and laundry needs of low-income urban households in slum/ chawls who face severe challenges due to lack of infrastructure and facilities.

The first centre was established in 2016 in Ghatkopar’s Azad Nagar slum and now the sixth and biggest centre is on its way to be set up in Dharavi.

"With the onset of the pandemic, it has become more critical than ever to provide hygiene and sanitation solutions to low-income urban households and especially to communities residing in congested arrangements, " said Kiran Dighavkar, nodal officer of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Assistant Municipal Commissioner G (North) ward (Dharavi, Dadar, Mahim).

He added,"The Suvidha Centre in Dharavi will offer a holistic approach to the issues of poor personal hygiene, lack of laundry facilities, lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation. The centre will be one of the biggest community toilets in Mumbai with over 100 clean flushing toilet seats for women, men and children, accessible toilets for people with disabilities, facilities for feminine hygiene needs and a safe, private, hygienic, and odour-free environment. The centre will also be designed with safety in mind with separate entrances for women and girls. Specific toilets will open at night to help reduce the risk of violence that is so prevalent at many slum toilets."

Because handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases like diarrhoea etc, and most importantly Covid19 there are designated stations on each floor for handwashing. "Soap will be provided along with messages to encourage handwashing at the right times and in the right way," Dighavkar said."

Additionally, the centre will also be providing modern laundry facilities with detergent that helps members of the community save time, energy, and money. The clothes will be already 60 per cent dry after washing. Women typically wash clothes by hand on a daily basis. With access to laundry facilities in their vicinity, officials said the facility will enable the women to have time to focus on education, employment, childcare and to rest.

To encourage the maximum number of people to avail of the services, they will be provided at a nominal cost of Rupees one for 1 litre of water and Rs. 150 a month for a family of 5 to access the toilets. Children will have free access to the toilets. Laundry facilities will also be offered at a much lower cost than typical market rates. Also, the communities around the centres will be taught the importance of good habits via various interventions to ensure sustained behaviour change and improvement in individual and overall community health. Over 5000 individuals will be served via the centre.

The design of the centre will include the usage of solar panels for the reduction in electricity consumption and will also be based on a circular economy approach to water wherein the water from handwashing and laundry facilities will be used to flush the toilets. The Dharavi Center will ensure that over 75 lakh litres of water will be saved and recycled.

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