Guest Post by Sindhu Chandrasekaran for the International World Toilet Day
As a part of a research project, I visited a slum in Tirupati to observe how community toilets work there and record the need for these toilets.
Many houses in the slum were built using loan given by MEPMA under the scheme “INDIRAMMA“ launched by Andra Pradesh in 2006. This scheme aimed at building “cozy and modern looking houses with individual sanitary latrines ” in urban areas. The amount earmarked per house was Rs 42,750 which included Rs 2,750 for building toilets and Rs.40,000 for construction of house.
As of 2012, under this programme, in AP, 90,000 houses were built without a toilet facility. In a move to ensure sanitation facilities for each house, the State instructed officials from the Housing Department to withhold payments for roof construction to the beneficiaries who fail to build individual sanitary latrines in their households.
A major proportion of families living in this slum are daily wage laborers. Many houses lack access to toilets and resort to open defecation near the adjacent railway tracks. Some families have constructed a toilet outside their house in the premises where there was vacant area available. These toilets are of the pour-flush type connected to a septic tank. The septic tank is never cleaned which results in over-flowing during rainy season. This is a threat to the overall health and well-being of the community.
Some families have individual toilets inside the house, a part of this group consists of Government employees who could afford to build a toilet inside the house. The number of shared community toilets was also low. There was only one shared community toilet used by 9 houses.This private toilet block served over 40 men, women, and children, who paid a subscription fee of Rs. 20 monthly for access to the facility.
Clearly, several reforms need to be undertaken in the slum so that basic necessities such as water and sanitation are available. Building community toilet blocks that are clean, safe and affordable in slums can really help improve sanitation conditions of the urban poor. Community toilets can also be managed and run by the communities themselves which can lead to new livelihood opportunities for the poor. Construction and maintenance of these blocks by community based organizations will also instill responsibility, ownership and commitment towards the toilet facility.