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HomeEditorialGirishikhar residents in Mumbai toiled with toilets - BMC plays spoiler

Girishikhar residents in Mumbai toiled with toilets – BMC plays spoiler

Under the Swachh Bharat campaign, the BMC has allocated Rs. 195.52 crore to make the city Open Defecation Free (ODF), which is the highest ever. In this connection it has identified 117 spots in the city to work on. But they have really not made efforts to locate appropriate places for these toilets for the slums in the city.

Similar is the case of Girishikhar Apartment in Kajupada, Borivali. The BMC has installed mobile toilets in a row on the footpath alongside the compound walls of the building. It is interesting to note that a public bus stop is located right there so much so even school buses take a halt here to pick and drop children making this installation highly unsafe for all concerned. Right behind the other side of the wall there is a garden and a hall for senior citizens to have evening gatherings and children to play indoor games. It is like one small community room. When BMC installs these mobile toilets, the residents are going to inhale the sewage fumes and foul smell. A viable concern is the footpath damage near the entrance gate as the replacement toilets and piping are installed.

Fumes that arise from a toilet are sewer gases. These strong gases are not only unpleasant that comes with the territory when not maintained, but are extremely unhealthy too. Hydrogen sulfide and often methane along with other chemicals and biological agents in varying degrees, compose sewer gas. The fumes of this gas pose definite health risks especially if inhaled for an extended period of time. The residents approached BMC authorities and the politicians pertaining to this constituency but instead of providing solutions, they were busy in passing the buck but none of them came with alternatives. The BMC issued a letter to the society stating that the toilets are temporary arrangements and they would be removed after two months. But there is no guarantee that the toilets are going to go from here if BMC work gets prolonged. Similar was the case in 2009, near B-wing of Girishikhar wall and it took two years to get rid of that toilet.

Odour and strange smell in mobile restrooms are a common problem. These toilets are not provided with auto flush systems to ensure that toilets are flushed after each use and the inline sanitizer treats the water to prevent scaling, removes buildup and cleans the toilet bowl. The floor drains are bound to cause unpleasant smells as they collect organic buildup with time. BMC is known for its lethargy and irregularities, so in such circumstances expecting them to keep toilets clean is a high expectation. Forget about the people living in building, but the people living in the slum may also suffer due to lack of access to sanitation and further suffer from preventable diseases and infections. In India, for instance, more than seven children per 10,000 residents die from diarrhea resulting from lack of sanitation. To address this, many state governments have announced drives to clean up their cities. But many cities are resorting to quick fixes that are polluting water sources and leaving countless urban communities by the wayside.

Take an example of India. In 2014, its government announced a highly publicised mission to “Clean India.” Under this mission, the government surveys and ranks the cities according to their cleanliness and hands prestigious awards to those ranking highest. The mission’s main aim was to rid the country of open defecation, makeshift toilets and open sewers by October 2019. This was music to the ears but later on, we realised the horrific side of it. These ambitious launches are temporary fixes where no one is ensuring their maintenance and long term functionality success or taking stock of the practical on street scenario. Hygiene and proper maintenance should be an addition parameter to such grand launch campaign and that is the true point of success. Accountability in the name of development is completely missing.

Samarth Mitra Mandal from Kajupada, Borivali slum residents were demanding for toilets to be rebuilt. But however, what they actually got was a “moving” toilets on the main road. A person has to walk a long distance for defecation, the toilets are limited and population is huge. Tomorrow, the small children or the grown-ups who would be able to tolerate the pressure of waiting for their turn may force to open defecate around. In such a scenario, can we really expect PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat dream getting fulfilled? Is installation of these mobile toilets the only point to celebrate and are we looking for genuine long term functionality success ratio?

The municipal government had achieved its aim of being declared as “open defecation free”, but the community was no better off. Look at the portable toilets those were installed in different slums of Mumbai. Today, three out of the four portable toilets are defunct. Slum residents are once again resorting to open defecation or using their self-built toilets. You go around Mumbai, this is the state of slums and their mobile toilets. Similar stories from all over Mumbai abound. Temporary fixes and cosmetic solutions offered by municipal governments are leaving countless communities empty handed in the long term. The particularly high risk of disease outbreak from water contamination in densely populated urban environments not only threatens lives but also reduces the time people can work, making it harder to escape scarcity. Although Mumbai has a centralised chlorinated water supply, it does not run through most slums. This particular slum has water supply issue. In such crises, can we expect adequate flush water can be poured to maintain hygiene? As summer approaches, water cuts are extreme which makes cleaning to ensure hygiene even worse. Wherever mobile toilets do exist in the city, they are either broken or leaking. Who is going to maintain these toilets? BMC officials or corporator are not going to do that. No toilet project will be a success unless you involve the community. Most slum houses do not have individual taps. A year ago, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) survey showed 78 per cent of community toilets in Mumbai’s slums lack water supply and 58 per cent have no electricity. Many slum toilets have no proper doors; men urinate in open door toilets in day broad light because its nature’s call and they are unable to control. In developing countries like India and in the financial capital like Mumbai, is it possible to assume that a government does not value its citizens? Is economic development a greater governmental issue than the health of its population? Do people not deserve access to basic human rights?

Unfortunately, slum is a big vote bank and gullible too. Right now the BMC has no answer to the angered Girishikhar residents and even public representatives like MP Pravin Darekar, former MNS MLA and now BJP member is busy appeasing Madrasas and slums. While residents of Girishikhar, in all probability, expect nothing from civic authorities, who they say, have ignored their pleas and appeals for taking action against portable toilets, now shouldn’t pin hopes on their MP either. BJP leader Gopal Shetty has assured residents of finding a solution but he did not revert either and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials have remained stubborn.


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Dr Vaidehi Tamanhttp://www.vaidehisachin.com
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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