Making a case for public toilets
Toilets are a basic necessity but often taken for granted by those who have regular access. Poor public and community toilet services are one of the most visible symptoms of inadequate urban sanitation services in India (public and community toilets summarized as public toilets for ease of communication). The pace of development in housing and public transport has not been matched by accessible and functional toilet amenities. Citizens, especially in high footfall areas including market places, bus stands and railway stations often cannot find a public toilet when they need one. Efficient public toilet management is especially crucial for cities with a large floating population – tourists, pilgrims, migrants, and transiting population – throughout the year.
According to official figures, 6% of urban households do not have toilets at home but depend on public facilities and community toilets. Added to that is 13% of urban households that do not have access to any toilet (at home or public) and need to resort to defecating in the open. Moreover, although sewage systems widely exist, over 37% per cent of faecal matter is not disposed off safely. These critical conditions pose significant public health and environmental risks, threatening the long-term growth trajectory of India's urban centres that currently contribute 60% to the national GDP, equivalent to US$ 50 billion. Improvements in public toilet management positively impact the cities’ economic, social and ecological environment (Figure). Subsequently, under the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission a total of 251,830 community toilet seats and 255,757 public toilet seats are to be created by 2019.
Public Toilet Management: Challenges and Process
Most often, sanitation models fail in their operations and management after a couple of years due to inadequacies in one or a combination of the planning, financing, operations and management of public toilets. The most common shortcomings are summarised in the figure below.
In response to these challenges, GIZ and its partners reviewed the public toilet management in two cities (Tirupati and Shimla). They, jointly with the municipality and other stakeholders, devised and implemented strategies including new management models, technologies and crosscutting approaches that bring about sustainable improvements. It becomes clear that while designing and managing public toilets, special attention should be paid to the following success factors:
Building on the research and results of the city interventions, GIZ has documented the Public Toilet Management (PTM) process to guide cities and other stakeholders toward improved public toilet management and to ensure successful replication across cities. The process highlights important focal areas, main steps and tools for sustainable public toilet management as well as key learnings from the interventions in Tirupati and Shimla.