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Urban public sanitation needs a lot more than just ‘pee credits’

The problem of urban sanitation – more precisely, the lack of it – disproportionately affects the urban poor. Living in the streets, slums and shanty towns, their services are indispensable to the everyday running of the city, but the facilities they have are woefully inadequate.

editorials Updated: Aug 20, 2017 17:20 IST
Hindustan Times
Public sanitation,urination,open defectaion
In terms of diseases that can be caused by poor sanitary facilities cost the country in money and in human capital as well.(Sonu Mehta/HT )

News of a Bangalore citizen rushing into a coffee shop to use the loo, and having to justify it to the staff later by insisting that he had bought enough from them to deserve “pee credits” shows how dire the sanitation situation is, even in our most cosmopolitan cities. If, in order to use the toilets, one has to spend money in buying whatever the establishment is selling, it automatically excludes access to those without the means to invest in buying from the said establishment. This approach is good only for a small percentage of rich city dwellers, and it does nothing to solve the sanitation problems of our cities.

The problem of open defecation and sanitation is not one that can be solved through apps on a smartphone. It requires a concerted effort by the government not just in terms of creating awareness but also in terms of building and maintaining the requisite infrastructure. The problem of urban sanitation – more precisely, the lack of it – disproportionately affects the urban poor. Living in the streets, slums and shanty towns, their services are indispensable to the everyday running of the city, but the facilities they have are woefully inadequate. In light of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the push from the government to end the practice of open defecation has done nothing to improve the sanitary conditions and open urination that is such a ubiquitous phenomenon in cities across India. The problem of open defecation is pretty dire even in cities. According to a report by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Class 1 and 2 cities account for 45% of the total share of open defecation households in urban India.

The government must invest in providing adequate sanitation facilities in densely populated urban agglomerations, because it is a healthcare disaster waiting to happen. In terms of diseases that can be caused by poor sanitary facilities cost the country in money and in human capital as well.

First Published: Aug 20, 2017 17:19 IST