Declared open-defecation free (ODF) more than two years ago, Mumbai still has a lot of ground to cover before it can bridge the gap between demand for public toilets and their availability. As per estimates, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has to construct more than a lakh toilet seats to meet the existing deficit.
The United National Development Program (UNDP) guidelines, also followed by Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM-Urban), requires that there should be at least one toilet seat for every 25 people. Mumbai, however, lags far behind in meeting the standard requirements.
According to Census 2011, Mumbai has around 52 lakh people living in slums – 42 per cent of its total population – and by this calculation, the city needs a total of 2.10 lakh public toilet seats.
Currently, Mumbai has around one lakh community and public toilet seats, constructed by Mumbai Housing Area Development Authority (MHADA) and BMC.
However, many of these are in a dilapidated condition and cannot be considered a safe sanitation facility.
“With its existing accessible sanitation facilities in Mumbai, the ratio of availability of toilets comes to around 52 to 100 people per toilet seat, since in many areas the gap between demand and availability is huge. Also, most of the toilets are old and dilapidated,” an official from Solid Waste Management (SWM) department said.
In 2005, the BMC had initiated the Slum Sanitation Plan (SSP) for constructing more toilets, but the scheme did not yield desired results. The BMC’s failure to construct adequate number of toilets were also pointed out in state Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report in 2017. It highlighted that the civic body was supposed to construct 20,195 toilets, but :managed to construct only 5,797 toilets by March 2016”.
In a move to deal with the shortage of toilets, the civic body now has planned to construct 22,774 toilet seats over the next few years. Of these 14,137 will be reconstructed by demolishing dilapidated structures, while 8,637 new toilet seats will be set up.
“The BMC has already appointed contractors for the work. At 266 locations, 4,788 toilet seats will be constructed. To avoid delays in the areas where sewerage lines are absent, we have asked contractors to build septic tanks as well. Apart from this, since there is space constraint we have planned to construct two- and three-storey toilets too,” a senior official from Solid Waste Management (SWM) told The Indian Express. The construction work will take at least one year to complete, the official added.
The BMC will spend Rs 704.03 crore on construction of these toilets, for which budgetary provision of Rs 104.46 crore has been made in 2019-20, officials said.
As per data obtained from the BMC, areas like Kurla, Mankhurd, Govandi and Chembur will get maximum number of 10,294 toilet seats, of which the highest 7,200 toilet seats will be constructed only in M-East (Govandi, Mankhurd).
Household latrine scheme lagging
To fight open defecation, the Swachh Bharat Mission guidelines also allows construction of Individual Household Latrine (IHL) in slums or chawls. However, this too has received a tepid response in Mumbai.
According to officials from the civic body’s Swachh Bharat Mission cell, since the inception of Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, the BMC has received 21,371 applications for construction of IHL of which 12,673 were approved, but only 20 per cent of these toilets have been constructed so far. In the last five years, 2,537 IHLs have been constructed, officials said.
“The scheme is facing difficulty due to land scarcity, lack of space for laying of sewerage line or construction of septic tank, and geographical issues, like hilly areas. Considering these issues, we are focusing on mainly construction of community and public toilets,” another official from SWM department said. The civic body reportedly has allotted Rs 20 crore to divisional assistant engineer of Solid Waste Management department for laying of internal sewer lines to stem the problem.
As per BMC data, in 2016 the civic body had taken up construction of 4,204 toilet seats and, so far, 3,623 has been completed. The rest are likely to be completed soon.
Claiming that the BMC is taking all efforts to make the situation better for sanitation, Kiran Dighavkar, nodal officer of Swachh Bharat Mission cell in BMC, said, “We are encouraging people to construct household toilets by providing funds. New sewerage lines for household toilets are being constructed. At places where space is an issue, we are constructing community or public toilets. This also includes multi-storey toilets. To speed up the construction of sewerage lines, provision for special funds have been made.”
The civic body has also mapped over 3,000 toilets and put them on Google Maps to help citizens to locate the ones nearest to them.