Sanitation entails ensuring a hygienic environment to eliminate diseases and health issues. But we find the Swachh Bharat Mission predominantly focused only on the construction of toilets. As a result, the complex problem of sanitation is reduced to the provision of household toilets, leading to the neglect of many crucial components such as the containment and treatment of human faeces, and the management of waste and waste water.
The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), India’s sanitation programme states that it aims to reduce health and sanitation vulnerabilities among the poor through access to toilets. However, we find that far from minimising vulnerabilities, the scheme seems to exploit their vulnerabilities to gain publicity and political support.
In constant contempt of the SWM Rules 2016 and its own bye-laws, Chennai Corporations continues to collect mixed waste and dispose it in dumpyards in Kodungaiyur, Perungudi and other locations in the city. Rather than enforce source segregation and promote composting, it intends to set up incinerators to burn the waste.
Chennai has zero community toilets. Shocking, is it not? The Corporation of Chennai has somewhere between 800 and 1000 public toilets, some of which are located near low income settlements. None of these have been designed to be community toilets though. A community toilet has several essential design features, about which I wrote in a previous blog.
There is much to learn from the working of previously constructed community managed toilets. When it comes to public sanitation, it is the provision of facilities for the poorest that is often neglected. According to a 2011 census, only 46.9% of India’s homes have a toilet. Open defecation is prominent among those who do not have access to private sanitation facilities and posses many health and safety risks. These could be the urban poor who live in slums and informal settlements and also commuters.