- Navi Mumbai was declared open defecation free in October 2
- Instances of open defecation have been reported despite ODF status
- Toilets in petrol pumps have been asked to give access to public
A problematic feature of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been to retain the open defecation free (ODF) status of many villages, towns and cities, even as ODF declarations are coming in from several corners, urban and rural areas, for the past three years. Urban Maharashtra, which was declared ODF on October 2 this year has since then struggled to maintain the status. The reason? Many are continuing to defecate in the open despite the ODF tag. Though the ODF declaration has come at the wake of proper inspection conducted by state government officials, the existing number of toilets is seemingly not enough as open defecation continues in certain pockets.
Navi Mumbai, despite being declared as ODF continues to witness occasional instances of people defecating in the open because behavioural change at a universal level is yet to come to the city. To counter this immediately and ensure that the ODF status of the township is maintained, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) has directed all petrol pump owners to set up toilets on their pump premises and grant access to those who wish to use them. The notice, which is in line with the Swachh Bharat guidelines as well as directives issued by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has already been notified to petrol pump owners.
The city is open defecation free but there have been reports of open defecation from certain parts. To make more toilets available to people, we have passed this notice of accessibility of toilets in petrol pumps. This will ensure that more toilets are available for usage to people in Navi Mumbai, said Tushar Pawar, Deputy Municipal Commissioner and Director of Solid Waste Management, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation.
Navi Mumbai has 320 public toilets, as well as 11 mobile toilets which can be accessed on a pay-per-use basis. Seven organisations are responsible for maintaining the public toilets under NMMC’s jurisdiction. The notice asks all petrol pumps to give access to toilet and water facilities, even if they have not come to the petrol pump for fuel purchases. The NMMC has also formed separate teams who keep an eye on the open defecation situation, submitting weekly reports on areas where the concentration of open defecation continue to be high. But despite its efforts open defecation remains an existent problem, prompting NMMC to pass the notice.
People will now be able to use the toilets in petrol pumps without having to pay any charges. In cases of any emergency, or if they spot a petrol pump nearby, they can use the toilet facilities there instead of defecating in the open, said Mr Pawar.
Local petrol pumps are not very amused with the decision, as representatives of the All Maharashtra Petrol Dealers Association voiced their concern regarding giving everyone access to toilets. While toilet facilities in petrol pumps are exclusively for those who come for purchasing petrol, petrol pump owners are fearful that opening them up to general public may result in their misuse.
If everyone starts using these toilets, it will become difficult for the petrol pump staff to keep them clean. Further, there is a chance of people misusing these facilities. How can we guarantee the safety of our consumers them? asks Dilip Rukari, Vice President of All Maharashtra Petrol Dealers Association.
The NMMC’s decision is an effective, if not permanently plausible one, as petrol pump toilets cannot be the substitute for public toilets. Building of more toilets at lesser intervals is the key for NMMC to ensure that Navi Mumbai’s ODF status remains true to the recognition.