Namma Bengaluru: Sanitation for the urban poor: City still has a long way to go


The BBMP claims that the city is Open Defecation Free (ODF), but it is yet to get certified as such under Swachh Bharat Mission

Many temporary tents with construction workers line a series of real estate projects around Rachenahalli and Thanisandra. But a public toilet is nowhere in sight.

“Places in and around Rachenahalli are suffering from the problem of open defecation. There are hardly any public toilets in the vicinity. The floating population – mainly hundreds of construction labourers – are forced into open defecation,” said a resident.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had earlier claimed that the city was Open Defecation Free (ODF), but it is yet to get ODF status under Swachh Bharat Mission.

On ground though, the reality is in stark contrast to the claims of the civic body.

Citizens and activists point out that across the city, especially on the outskirts, open defecation is rampant, especially during early mornings and late nights. One thing that is common in such areas is the absence of public toilets, or poorly maintained ones. Public toilets in areas that have a floating population, especially of migrant workers and labourers, are the only way ahead, citizens say, pointing to the health and other implications of the lack of adequate sanitation: contamination of soil, surface water near lakes, and ground water.

Problem across the city

The problem is common across the city – from Whitefield in the east to Hebbal in the north – more so where construction activities are on in full swing. Residents claim that many huge construction sites have not provided washroom facilities to workers.

Residents around Nallurahalli, near Whitefield, have been striving hard for years to revive the Nallurahalli lake in the IT hub. Residents and regular walkers complain about a foul smell not only from garbage dumped near the lake, but also due to open defecation.

“We do not know when we will get freedom from the unsightly condition of people openly defecating and the foul odour. We have brought it to the attention of the BBMP many times, but nothing has changed,” said a resident.

The situation is no different in and around Thalaghattapura and Hemmigepura.

Chaithanya Subrahmanya, an environment activist, says that all this was largely because of the absence of public infrastructure in some places and lack of maintenance of existing infrastructure at other places.

“You cannot even go near Gubbalala and Thalaghattapura lakes. The tank bunds are filled with faeces. We have constantly approached the authorities concerned, but nothing has changed. We have been working on this issue for more than three years now,” she said.

‘Around 700 toilets in city’

Jagadish Hiremani, member of National Safai Karamchari Commission, said the BBMP has been directed to look into matters of poorly maintained toilets. “I have called a meeting on December 12 to assess action taken and progress,” he said.

Out of around 530 toilets under the BBMP and 150 toilets built and maintained under the PPP model, many toilets are not well-maintained. “Lack of maintenance discourages people from using them,” he said.

He also said that pourakarmikas end up cleaning open spaces where people defecate. “If pourakarmikas are involved in cleaning untreated human excreta, it can amount to manual scavenging, which is not only illegal but also inhuman,” he said.

Need for more community toilets

V. Ramprasad, Solid Waste Management activist, said that the tag of ODF should be taken with a pinch of salt not only in the city but across the State. “Across the city, one can effortlessly find people, especially migrant workers, defecating in public,” he said, adding that there is an urgent need for construction of public and community toilets in each and every corner of the city.

“It is the responsibility of the government and also people to ensure that every household and family in the city has access to a toilet. We will fail as a society if we cannot set such a basic issue right,” he said.

Demand for ‘individual house hold latrines’

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which is responsible for construction and maintenance of community toilets, public toilets and e-toilets, is aiming for full ODF (Open Defecation Free) status and better ranking under Swachh Survekshan 2020.

While the BBMP had self-declared itself as ODF over the past few years, it is yet to get ODF status under Swachh Bharat Mission. BBMP officials are confident of getting full ODF status this year, and said the civic body has fulfilled the criteria.

BBMP officials told The Hindu that one of the main criteria, apart from ensuring there is no open defecation spot in the city, is ensuring that the construction of Individual House Hold Latrines (IHHLs) is over 90% of the accepted applications. The BBMP, officials claimed, is close to achieving 90%.

Of the total 4,470 applications received this year, the civic body has approved 3,131 applications. A total of 2,643 toilets have been constructed, they said.

Maintenance standards

The other main criteria is to ensure that community toilets and public toilets are maintained as per the mandatory parameters (see box).

Recently, for better management and improving cleanliness in the city, the toilets have been handed over to the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Cell. According to a circular issued by BBMP Commissioner B.H. Anil Kumar on December 6, the management of community toilets, public toilets and e-toilets will be done by the health department under the supervision of the SWM Cell.

BBMP’s Special Commissioner (Solid Waste Management) D. Randeep said that while the civic body’s old application under Swachh Bharat Mission for ODF status stands, the BBMP now has a better chance this year.

“When an urban local body applies for ODF, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will assign a team from Quality Control of India for an inspection. The team picks the locations randomly (as per a sample size) for the inspection. If all three parameters are found to be met satisfactorily during the inspection, the ODF is awarded to the ULB,” he said. However, the time and locations for the inspection are not revealed to the ULBs.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 11:50:19 AM |

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