THE Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation declared Mumbai free of open defecation Thursday, albeit cautiously, perhaps aware that in a city with 60 per cent of slum population, a bold declaration would invite a backlash and evidence otherwise. So, before making the announcement, the civic body sent several letters to the Western and Central Railways and to the Salt Commissionerate, asking for their cooperation in installing toilets on lands under their jurisdiction.
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Over the course of the year, the BMC has set up toilets in localities across the city, but the stretches of land adjoining the suburban railway tracks are commonly used as open toilets by slum dwellers.
In his letters to the general manager of the Central and Western Railways, Mehta has mentioned that open defecation takes place in areas such as Mahim, Bandra and Kurla. Referring to the National Green Tribunal’s directions, the civic chief, in the letters, stated that the Railway authorities should take measures to provide toilet facilities or allow the civic authorities to construct public toilets on railway land. Mehta has also requested the Railway authorities to cooperate with the civic officials, asking them to deploy RPF personnel at identified spots to prevent open defecation.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh has sent a similar letter to the salt commissioner, Premanshu Biswas, in which he has asked for permission to construct toilet blocks on salt pan lands which fall in Mira-Bhayandar area.
Under the banner of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, which was launched in October 2014, the BMC conducted a city-wide survey and identified 118 spots with high incidence of open defecation. “As per the norms of the initiative, the BMC has provided toilets every 500 metres from the identified spot and we have appointed clean-up marshalls to urge people to use the toilets instead of defecating and urinating in public places,” said a civic official.
According the civic body’s figures, in the past few months, 1,641 seats have been installed while the construction of 3,877 are under process. Earlier, there were 8,415 existing toilets with 80,000 seats. In places where the construction of a toilet was not feasible, around 800 mobile toilet seats have been made available. Under the scheme allowing construction of household toilets, permission for 7,899 toilets have been given, of which 500 have been built and 962 are under construction.