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Dhaka’s public toilets at dire straits

Mismanagement by both the city corporations blamed

Golam Mostafa Jibon: Public toilets of both the city corporations in Dhaka have now reached at dire straits due to lack of proper maintenance caused by extreme apathy of the authorities concerned. Though, most of those are unfit to use, there is no necessary steps to renovate those for the sake of users.
According to the sources, about two crore people live in the capital city Dhaka. When people go out of the house for various needs, they need to use toilet. But as the number of public toilets in Dhaka is insufficient compared to the need, the authorities concerned do not have the monitoring and management capacity to ensure this essential service. As a result, many public toilets have already become closed in that consequence, common people have to suffer regularly. But, there is no headache of any one.
Locals complained that, there are no facilities for women and disabled people in places where there are public toilets in the capital. There are no tissues or soap in public toilets. In some places, doors and windows, water taps and commodes have been remained in broken condition for year after year. There is nothing of cleanliness.
According to the two City Corporation sources of Dhaka, there are about 200 public toilets in Dhaka North and South City Corporation areas, most of which are now closed. Not only older, most of the newly constructed toilets have closed due to different reasons.
According to the data provided by the property department of Dhaka South City, DSCC has a total of 74 public toilets. Among them, the private organization ‘Water Aid’ takes care of 11, while 46 are running by leaseholders. The remaining 17 public toilets are closed, abandoned and under renovation.
Locals said, many of the public toilets on lease are currently closed. Some are also being used for other purposes.
There are a total of 94 public toilets in the area under Dhaka North City Corporation. Among them, the private organization ‘Bhoomij’ manages five, ‘Water Aid’ manages 16 and ‘Space’ manages two. And most of the remaining 71 public toilets are closed.
Management lacks capacity:
Dhaka North City Corporation has constructed a public toilet next to Banani 27 playground. During a recent visit to the spot, this correspondent found that, the toilet was locked. Pedestrians were seen urinating in open spaces next to the public toilets. The same scene was seen in Mohammadpur’s Iqbal Road field, Banani F Block, Shyamoli Park and several other fields and public toilets adjacent to the park. Besides, the public toilets adjacent to Banshal Park, Rasulbagh Park and Sikkatuli Park of Dhaka South City Corporation are also closed.
Seeking anonymity, an official of North City Corporation said that, the playground number 27 was supposed to be inaugurated last October. For unknown reasons, it was not done. Playgrounds and public toilets are yet to be opened for the public.”
No monitoring by the management:
It is mentioned in the official documents of the city corporation that, the public toilet at Nawab Sirajuddaula Park in Old Dhaka, Nawabazar and Zindabahar is still operational. But it was found that all the materials for making Singara and Samucha of a Coffee Shop in the park were kept inside the toilet, which is surprisingly.
When asked, an employee of the Coffee Shop said that, the owner has leased the toilet as well as the Coffee Shop. So, whether we use this toilet or keep it closed, we are not obliged to give an apology to anyone. This toilet allowed us to use, it when needed. That is why, our essentials are kept here.
It is known that Rafiq Uddin Molla took the public toilet of the park on lease for one year in February last.
After that, Motijheel’s Jubo League leader Noor Islam Chowdhury took rent from him.
Noor Islam Chowdhury said, “Within a month of rent, the water supply line of the toilet breached. Since then, the public toilet has been closed.”
He further said, “I have reported the matter to the City Corporation, but they have not taken any action.”
Nishat Chowdhury, a regular walker at Nawab Sirajuddaula Park, said, “Everybody uses this park for morning and evening walks. There was a long-standing expectation of the people who come to walk here regularly that, there should be a toilet in this park. There are toilets, but people are not allowed to use those. It has been made into a Coffee Shop’s store room.”
A fee of Tk 5-Tk 10 is required to use many public toilets of the city corporation. But the environment inside those is not healthy at all. The victims complain that, this plight of public toilets is due to the mentality of more profit of the contractor and the lack of supervision of the city corporations’ authorities.
During spot visit, it was found that, public toilets located next to Kabi Nazrul College in Old Dhaka, public toilets in Bahadur Shah Park, public toilets in Malitola Park and public toilets in Sadarghat Launch Terminal are charged a fee. But no handwash, soap or tissue is kept in these toilets. As a result, users face health risk. Common people are angry and dissatisfied with this.
Kabi Nazrul went to the public toilet located next to the government college and saw the same situation. The toilets here are dirty and unclean.
Ibrahim, the responsible worker, said that many people take tissues inside or outside the toilet. Many others waste tissue. This is why we keep tissues with us. Whoever needs it, he will take it from us.
Toilets at Kabi Nazrul College in the city do not have high commodes for women. Besides, two toilets are closed.
While talking, Ibrahim Khalil, a cleaning worker, said, “Some women who come here, sit in high commode and take drugs. Then, they leave it in dirty condition. That’s why, I closed the toilet. Besides, less people come to this toilet. That’s why, there is no need for more toilets. If more people come, I would fix the water faucet or basin. It is not necessary now.”
Visiting to the public toilet of Bahadur Shah Park, it was learnt that there was no tissue or soap. But the toilet was quite clean. Regarding the non-availability of soap and tissue, Aklima, the employee in charge of the toilet, said, “We have run out of tissue and soap today.”
A woman said, “Napkins should be provided in public toilets for women. Many people have to go to the nearest public toilet when they suddenly get sick. But if the public toilets do not have special facilities for women, that is very bad.”
The public toilet inside Malitola Park is in the worst condition. Many people leave without going to the toilet after seeing the dirty environment. An employee in charge, who did not wish to be named, said that, the soap-tissue in the toilet had run out.
The public toilet next to the Sadarghat launch terminal also has no sanitization system. Although, this public toilet was seen quite clean.
Akhlima Begum, who came to the launch terminal, said, “It is sad that there is no sanitization system in the public toilet despite paying for the service.”
What the authorities say:
Russell Sabrin, Chief Property Officer of DSCC, said, “Why don’t they provide good service! They won’t get customers if they don’t provide good service with high lease rates. They will suffer financially. There is no reason not to give them good service.”
Mohammad Abul Kashem, Supervising Engineer of Dhaka North City Corporation’s Environment, Climate and Disaster Management Circle said, “After construction, we have 14 public toilets waiting to be commissioned. But the city corporation does not have enough manpower to manage them. For that reason, they will be managed through the local people.”
He said that, there are more than 50 newly constructed and renovated public toilets, out of which 3-4 have been leased.
What is the solution?
The Executive Director of the Institute for Planning and Development, City Planner Adil Muhammad Khan said, “200 public toilets are nothing for the city of Dhaka. It is not possible to build and manage adequate public toilets. As the city corporation has many public toilets, proper service should be ensured. Besides, sufficient public toilets should be constructed in mosques, temples, markets, shopping malls and kept open for people.”

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