Right To Pee Campaign: Why Does The Situation Of Mumbai's Public Toilets Stink

Right To Pee Campaign: Why Does The Situation Of Mumbai's Public Toilets Stink

Dire situation is primarily attributed to two problems: Poor quality of construction and the absence of a proper maintenance system

Kamal MishraUpdated: Sunday, March 10, 2024, 01:09 AM IST
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Representational Image | FPJ Photo

In the heart of our bustling city, a critical issue has emerged that affects the daily lives of residents and visitors alike: the deplorable condition of public toilets. This dire situation is primarily attributed to two problems: Poor quality of construction and the absence of a proper maintenance system.

Causes of the problem

“One of the root causes of the predicament lies in the construction itself. Numerous public toilets across the city were hastily erected, cutting corners on quality and durability. The consequence? A myriad of structural issues ranging from leaky pipes to crumbling walls, posing not only hygiene concerns but also safety hazards for users,” says Rubina Sheikh, a resident of Dharavi.

Equally troubling is the lack of a robust maintenance system, she says. Public toilets, like any other infrastructure, require consistent attention and upkeep to ensure they meet the standards of cleanliness and functionality expected by the public. However, a deficiency in regular maintenance has allowed these facilities to fall into a state of disrepair, she says.

Right to Pee campaign

According to Rohini Kadam, a ‘Right to Pee’ campaign activist, without proper maintenance, toilet facilities cannot be improved. The BMC needs to come up with an adequate fund allocation system for the maintenance of existing toilet blocks, she says.

Suhasini Chavan, a resident of Vikhrolisays, "It is imperative for municipal authorities to prioritise the revitalisation of public toilets, not only as a matter of hygiene but also as a fundamental aspect of the city’s commitment to providing a liveable and welcoming environment for all. A city is often judged by the condition of its shared spaces, and the state of its public toilets reflects the dedication to the well-being of its citizens."

Shabnam Khan from Mankhurd voiced concerns about the dire state of community toilets. “Most are closed, lacking facilities. We can’t risk exposing our children to unhygienic places, especially at night without electricity. The fear of robbery, abuse, and harassment is overwhelming. Some toilets shut after midnight, forcing women and children to resort to open spaces, leading to harassment and violence.”

Misuse of municipal corporation funds

According to Community Outreach Recognition and Opportunity (CORO), an organisation working in this field, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan guidelines mandate meticulous demand assessments before constructing community toilets and dictate a minimum distance of 500 metres between two facilities. “However, the study reveals violations in few tenders for construction of toilets where toilets are constructed without proper demand assessment, leading to a misuse of municipal corporation funds.”

“As there are complaints that the construction quality of several community toilets constructed under the slum sanitation program is of poor quality, the defects in the work should be checked by a third party and the poor quality works should be completed as per defect liability paired in the contract,” says a letter written by CORO to the municipal commissioner in November 2023.

“Also, the completed work should be checked by a third party. Under the slum clearance programme, the officially appointed few contractors and their associated NGOs have been sub-contracting their work, causing problems in quality of work and accountability,” the letter reads.

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