Lack of community toilets in Shivaji Nagar slums pose greater Covid risk
More than a year after the state human rights commission took suo moto cognisance of reports on lack of community toilets in the slums of Shivaji Nagar in Deonar, nothing has changed on-ground, says NGO Apnalaya, an organisation working in the slum clusters.
In November 2018, the NGO calculated the ratio of people per toilet seat as being 145:1, a far cry from the Swachh Bharat Mission norms which states that there should be one toilet seat for every 25 people.
The ratio is more troublesome in the current pandemic, especially in areas that have the worst health indices in the city. As per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Covid-19 report for July 9, M-East ward has reported 3,427 cases and 277 deaths.
According to the Mumbai Human Development Report 2009 of United Nations Development Programme, the average life expectancy in M-East ward (which includes Shivaji Nagar) is 39 years. The same report puts M-East on the lowest rank among the city’s 24 wards in terms of human development index. Another 2017 situational analysis by Apnalaya found that 44% of children in the ward are underweight while 57% are stunted. Around 88% of pregnant women here are anaemic.
The lack of community toilets forces people to stand in long queues or resort to open defecation. Rehan Shaikh, a resident of the area, said, “The queues are always long. The doors of the functional toilets are often broken, and the toilets are dirty. It becomes very difficult during the rains.”
Poornima Nair, director (health and disability) at Apnalaya, said, “The human rights commission took suo moto cognisance when the report was published in 2018. Still, the situation is the same. The long-term impact of this is that people get regular bouts of diarrhoea and other ailments, especially during monsoon.”
Sunita Choure, program in-charge at Apnalaya, said, “People with disabilities, pregnant women and senior citizens find it more difficult to access the toilets.”
While Sudhanshu Dwivedi, ward officer of M-East was not available for comment, Shaera Khan, a councillor from electoral ward 134 of Shivaji Nagar, said, “In the last one and a half to two years, BMC has given approval for 25-30 community toilets in every electoral ward, but the work has been very slow. Now, the lockdown and monsoon have further affected the work.”