Attracting private players to Delhi’s potential “public convenience market” may be the solution to its oozing sanitation woes, says Jack Sim — on a mission to raise international toilet standards.
“The toilet has always been an intimate part of human civilisation. But these days, there is a stigma associated with sanitation habits and the ‘toilet culture’,” he said.
This is what led Sim, an Ashoka Global Fellow, to abandon his business and establish the World Toilet Organization (WTO) on November 19, 2001.
An NGO with 151 member organisations from 53 countries, the WTO attempts to mainstream “the culture of cleanliness” and raise global awareness about sustainable sanitation activities. Its founding day is celebrated as World Toilet Day every year.
In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, Sim said that salvation lay in privatisation,
“Toilets have to catch up with the growing standards of living in India, hence the need to privatise them — fast,” he said.
He said good service and innovation needed to be rewarded. “Instead of letting just civic agencies have a monopoly, the forces of demand and supply need to be ushered in,” he added.
He also felt the stigma associated with sanitation as an occupation needed to go.
“There is a need to not only train sanitation workers, but also to make their job more respectable by eliminating the social stigma associated with it.” The need was to upgrade them from the status of unskilled workers to that of technicians, he added.
Named “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine in 2008, Sim believes the way towards finding a solution to the Capital’s sanitation problems is to bring in entrepreneurship, micro-financing and franchising.
Faud Lokhandwala, the proprietor of FUMES and the man behind the self-sustaining, pay-and-use toilets in Delhi’s NDMC areas, felt lack of maintenance was to blame.
“It is as if maintenance is an alien concept in our country. We can implement the most innovative of facilities, but owing to lack of maintenance — nothing works out,” he said.
“We will install about 1,200 toilets much before the Commonwealth Games. Private players have been roped in to maintain them,” said K.S. Mehra, MCD commissioner.