World Toilet Day: Karachi needs more public toilets


Karachi: Karachi, a city of 20 million people, faces acute shortage of public toilets, especially in densely populated commercial and market areas of Old City, creating immense problems for people. As the world is observing the World Toilet Day, the city planners have no vision to provide the citizens better toilet facilities in markets and other public places.

In pre-partition days, Karachi had many public toilets in different localities, especially commercial areas; however, in later years majority of these public toilets went non-functional due to apathy of municipal authorities. Though the population of the city has increased manifolds but the city planners have failed to erect new public toilets to facilitate citizens. It is common to see people relieving them behind trees or lonely street corners in the city.

Lack of access to a clean and private toilet can expose individuals to the risk of disease. But the taboo attached to ‘toilet talk’ is the biggest hurdle in addressing sanitation issues to decrease the prevalence of diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid and tuberculosis, which annually kill over 40,000 children in Pakistan alone.

U.N. General Assemby (UNGA) adopted a resolution, initiated by Singapore, to declare Nov. 19 “World Toilet Day” the first-ever in the 68-year history of the United Nations. “The name is catchy and humourous,” says the statement by Singapore, “But it serves to capture the public’s attention, and focus on the challenges of sanitation and toilets.” The resolution, which was co-sponsored by 121 member states, calls for greater attention to the global sanitation crisis through the commemoration of World Toilet Day next week.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his message on World Toilet Day said that each year, more than 800,000 children under five die needlessly from diarrhoea — more than one child a minute. Countless others fall seriously ill, with many suffering long-term health and developmental consequences. Poor sanitation and hygiene are the primary cause. Worldwide, some 2.5 billion people lack the benefits of adequate sanitation. More than 1 billion people practise open defecation. We must break the taboos and make sanitation for all a global development priority.

According to WaterAid’s statistics, one in three women worldwide risks shame, disease, harassment and even attack as she has nowhere safe to go to the toilet, and this figure is largely found in developing nations. Proper sanitation would make 1.25 billion women’s lives safer and healthier.

About Pakistan’s sanitation status in particular, Head of the Pakistan Institute for Environment Development Action Research Syed Ayub Qutub said that only two-thirds of households have access to flush toilets, either cistern or pour-flush. Another 15% have non-flush toilets, while 18% of the households have no toilets at all. In the rural areas of the country, 27% of the households have no toilets, that is, about 35 million people go out to defecate daily.

Qutub noted how lack of toilet facilities affects women as they risk shame and even harassment. “Women and older girls find it particularly inconvenient, often having to wait for the relative privacy of the night to defecate in the open,” he added.

Karachi which is one of the most populated cities of also lacks toilet facilities. There are no public toilets in markets, parks and other places. In 1999 CPLC planned to construct about 200 Public Toilets in various areas, especially public places like markets, major recreation parks, etc but it has so far constructed only 40 toilets in the city. Meanwhile, majority of public toilets build by CPLC were either closed or were not able to use.

A mobile shop owner in Saddar, Niaz Ahmed, said that there was only one bathroom for almost 1000 people in plaza. Majority of people go to a nearby mosque for using toilets but the toilets of mosques only open during prayer times.

Sania Ahmed, a working lady told PPI that it was very difficult for females as mostly in offices there are no toilets for ladies. The females also face this problem at bazaars and other public places.

When contacted, Sindh Minister for Information and Local Government Sharjeel Inam Memon noted the importance of public toilets and said that government will initiate projects for building more toilets in public areas. He said that his ministry would work out a plan to build public toilets especially for women.

Karachi University, which is one of the most prestigious universities of the city, also lacks facilities of toilets for almost 26000 students studying in it, as many toilets are not functional due to lack of maintenance.

Maaz Ahmed, a student of International Relations department told PPI that many washrooms of his department were not in a condition to be used and therefore they had to go other departments or toilets of mosques for this purpose. “We can use any available toilet but what about girls as they cannot go to other departments for using toilet due to shame.” Meanwhile, no official of the university was available for comment.

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