- Bhubaneswar’s municipal corporation will begin a toilet repair drive
- The city has 124 public toilets today, nearly double that of last year
- Open defecation still continues in some parts of the city
One of the core aspects of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been to identify the fundamental differences between rural and urban sanitation. The urban wing of the mission, handled by Ministry of Urban Development is instrumental in ensuring the construction of public and private toilets in cities and towns. Lack of maintenance of public toilets is a common problem across urban municipalities. Due to unprecedented use of public toilets across cities and lack of adequate manpower, maintaining these on a regular basis is an issue
The Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC), facing similar problems of public toilet maintenance, has announced a month-long programme to completely clean and repair the city’s public toilets.
Bhubaneswar, despite being touted as a potential smart city, ranked 94 among 434 cities in Swachh Survekshan 2017, an annual ranking of cities based on cleanliness and access to clean toilets. The fall in the city’s rankings, from 24 last year to 94 this year has put the municipal corporation in a fix. The civic body is of the opinion that cleaner public toilets will definitely increase the city’s rankings in the upcoming Survekshan. The programme is expected to begin by the end of October 2017.
The whole purpose of installing public toilets is defeated if they are unclean and cannot be used by anyone. We have taken this month-long initiative to ensure that all the public toilets in the city are cleaned and have adequate water supply in them, said Krishnan Kumar, Commissioner, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.
Bhubaneswar has 124 public toilets across the city. Till 2016, the number of public toilets in the city was 65 but due to the civic body’s toilet building initiatives, the number nearly doubled in a year. Though the number of toilets has increased significantly, the municipal corporation has faced repeated complaints from citizens regarding lack of water supply in some toilets, lack of adequate light and hostile behaviour from some of the staff in-charge of the toilets.
More than 50 toilets in Bhubaneswar have been built in the last year itself, so we will use this month-long drive to assess what exactly is the problem with them. We will utilise this drive to identify the individual problems associated with each newly built, as well as old toilet and ensure that these are resolved, said Mr Kumar.
Along with problems of water, light and lack of space, the attitude of people has also hurt Bhubaneswar’s public toilets. Despite the doubling of numbers in public toilets, many areas continue to see people defecating in the open. The city civic body attributes such practices to the lack of sensitisation among people. The rate of open defecation in slum areas continues to be high and the civic body has committed to spend more on information, education and communication (IEC) to educate people about the importance of using toilets. The civic body is also not entirely blaming people for the existing practice of open defecation. During this cleanup drive, feedback will be taken from people on why they do not use toilets and what could be done to make the public toilets in the city better.
We will ask people why they continue practicing open defecation and what sort of problems they face during toilet usage. Using the feedback, we can plan our next course of action, said Mr Kumar.
Bhubaneswar is the ideal example of why merely installation of toilets may not yield desired results under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. This month-long drive will assist the civic body in understanding sanitation behaviour in the city and what could be done to improve it.