The poor sanitation in the 3,500 slums in the city directly impacts the general population too.
In order to stop the spread of water-borne diseases across classes, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) authorities are planning to replace the existing 4,000 pit or well latrines in the slums permanently with sanitary latrines.
The proposal, which awaits government nod, will cost the civic exchequer around Rs. 30 crore. But the KMC bosses are hopeful that in the long run it will result in good health for the residents of an AI grade metro such as Kolkata.
KMC sources add that the civic authorities have time and again highlighted how waiters or other kitchen staff in restaurants and food joints, many of who come from underprivileged families and live in slums or have a poor sense of hygiene, play a role in the spread of diseases such as typhoid, cholera, adenovirus infection, viral gastroenteritis and other diseases spread by bacteria in faeces.
“A metro city should not have such a poor sanitation level. So I initiated a proposal to convert the pit latrines in slums to sanitary ones.
I have already sent a detailed project report to the urban development and municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim for governmental approval,” Swapan Samaddar, member, mayor-in-council (slum development), told HT.
Given the health scenario, it is no surprise that Kolkata’s slums have a high child mortality rate owing to diseases such as diarrhoea and respiratory ailments.
“Slums have always been treated as an eyesore and a nuisance to be dealt with only to ensure the safety, security and health and hygiene of the urban middle and upper classes,” a senior KMC official said. But this attitude needs to change, he added.
According to KMC’s health department records, after malaria, the next disease that is reported among the highest number of patients in Kolkata is diarrhoea.
In a recent survey conducted by the bustee department, it has been found that around 4,000 pit or well latrines are being used by the city’s slum dwellers.
According to the proposal, each sanitary latrine would cost around Rs. 73,000.
But because of the shortage of land, sanitary latrines are becoming a must for slum dwellers as an alternative to individual household toilets, says an engineer attached with KMC’s bustee department.
According to a 2001 census report, around 6% Kolkatans depend on latrines other than pit and water closet, which includes service latrines too, while 4.32% households in the city do not have any latrine at all.
These dwellers defecate in the open causing different health problems.