55% public toilets unusable or extremely dirty: Ministry report
A survey of public toilets in Delhi, conducted by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA) in November, found that nearly 55% of the facilities inspected were either completely unusable or extremely dirty.
In Delhi, public toilets are maintained by different agencies. But the bulk of them, and also the worst ones in the survey, were found to be run by the three municipal corporations.
The report showed toilets under the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) was the worst. The facilities under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) were in the best condition in terms of cleanliness and usability.
The ministry had surveyed a total of 1,175 toilets in November 2019. The report was recently sent to the local bodies so that they can take corrective measures.
Out of 1,175 toilets surveyed, 945 were under EDMC, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), NDMC and Delhi Cantonment. The remaining 230 community and public toilets were under other government agencies.
The east, north and south municipal corporations are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
According to the report, 654 toilets out of 1,175 -- 55% of the sample size -- were either completely unusable or extremely dirty. In the NDMC, 111 toilets were surveyed and only 7% were either unusable or very dirty. Out of 111 surveyed facilities, 56% (62) were found very clean and 12% were excellent.
The report says the worst toilets were found in EDMC areas.
The ministry had inspected 191 toilets of EDMC out of which 76% were not usable while 18% were usable but very dirty. This means 94% of such facilities are either not fit for use or extremely dirty. Only 25% of surveyed toilets in the east civic body had necessary sanitary supplies.
The east body had got an open defecation-free (ODF) certificate in March last year, which was renewed in January this year. The east corporation, which caters to a population of 4.5 million, has 87 community toilets and 502 public toilets and urinals.
Dilraj Kaur, EDMC commissioner said they had been working to improve the condition of toilets.
“This (MoHUA) survey was done in November last year (2019) and since then we have done a lot more work on our toilet facilities. We even got our ODF (open defecation-free) certificate renewed in January this year. So how could we have been granted that if 94% of our toilets were unusable?” Kaur asked.
Arun Kumar, EDMC spokesperson and senior engineer, questioned the results. “We got an assessment done by an independent agency called Centre for Urban and Regional Excellence, which is also empanelled with USAID and MoHUA, in January this year and it said 75% of our toilets are usable,” Kumar said.
In the north civic body, 262 toilets were surveyed out of which 74% were either unusable or very dirty and 23% were clean. The north corporation has 299 community toilets and 151 public toilets. North MCD got the ODF tag in December 2019.
North corporation commissioner Varsha Joshi said, “We have improved humongously since the last survey (in 2018). The number of ‘unusable’ toilets in our area has come down from 60% to 40%. The number of ‘clean’ toilets has gone up from 10% to 23%. The number of ‘very clean’ toilets has increased from 0% to 3%. This is an achievement.”
“Besides, majority of our toilets had been outsourced in December. The agency concerned will conduct a survey in March and we are expecting even better results,” she said.
In south, 358 toilets were inspected of which 24% were either unusable or extremely dirty while 16% were very clean and 41% were excellent. The SDMC was recertified as open defecation-free in March 2019. There are a total of 600 public toilets and 200 community toilets.
A senior officer from SDMC, who didn’t want to be named, only said, “We are going through the report to see where there is more scope for improvement.”
Activist Indu Prakash Singh, who was involved in the audit of public toilets as a member of the NGO Actionaid for several years, said, “The MCDs constructed many toilets last few years but couldn’t maintain them due to financial issues. Often, you would find no guard, plumbers or sweepers in such facilities. Fixtures like taps, basins and even the doors would have been stolen. Building such infrastructure cannot be done half-heartedly.”