Mumbai: In the densely populated city of Mumbai where a large number of slum dwellers have been using the outdoors to relieve themselves due to lack of, or unbearably dirty toilets, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is working full time to make Mumbai open defecation free (ODF) by the end of this year.
“The BMC has been racing against time to construct toilets in 118 open defecation areas where there are no toilets,” BMC’s Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vijay Balamwar told Gulf News. “As of now, more than 10,000 public toilet seats have been constructed under the Slum Sanitation Programme. Out of this, over 2,500 have been constructed in the last two years.”
Congested and slum-dominated areas as in Dindoshi, Kurla, Mankhurd and Bhandup have been identified for public toilet construction. “We have constructed new public toilets in South Mumbai, too,” he adds.
“We are also coordinating with the Indian Railways to construct toilets wherever they ask us to though they had earlier objected to any construction in the operational areas.” Railway tracks have always been used for defecation by slum people, mostly children, a sorry sight that is common in India. Most important is that it is unhygienic for people living nearby and therefore, says the civic officer, the BMC has constructed public toilets in Bandra East, Mahim, Sion and other localities.
He also emphasises on the National Green Tribunal’s order to the Indian Railways to take steps to maintain cleanliness on platforms and tracks. In March this year, it directed railway authorities, to install mobile toilets near slum clusters alongside railway tracks.
More than 100,000 toilet seats have been constructed in Mumbai through the years under different schemes with a majority under Local Area Development Schemes of both MPs and MLAs and the rest 20,000 by the BMC.
Just construction of toilets is not the end of the game. The BMC says it creates awareness against open defecation by getting the stakeholders, local schools, NGOs and local organisations involved in this effort.
“We have deployed marshals who, though they cannot act on their own, work with local residents associations to manage and ensure that no one is defecating in the open,” says Balamwar. As for maintaining cleanliness, the BMC says it supplies water and electricity but in the long-run, the community-based organisations have been given the responsibility of maintenance and collecting monthly charges from the users.
At the recent Global Citizens programme in Mumbai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that Maharashtra would become an ODF state by March 2018 with an investment of Rs50 million (around Dh2.6 million).
The Union Urban Development Ministry recently certified 10 towns — five each in Maharashtra and Telangana — as ODF after due verification under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). The first to be certified included Kagal, Panchgani, Vengurla, Murgud and Panhala in Maharashtra, and Siddipet, Shadnaga, Suryapet, Achampet and Huzumnagar in Telengana. A municipal ward or city can be notified as ODF only if, any point of the day, not a single person is found to be defecating in the open.