BENGALURU: You’ve just got your salary and you are out on Commercial Street shopping with your friends, when this urge to pee strikes. You try to hold it in, because you don’t know how far off the public toilet would be. Even if you do happen to spot one, the unbearable stink makes you want to puke.
“You should use the one on Dickensen Road at the corner near Commercial street. It is pathetic. Doors, bolts, nothing is ok. There is water everywhere,” says Janet S K Yegnesweran, a resident of Ejipura.
Chitra Venkatesh of Kumara Park West identfies this stink as one of the primary reasons why she doesn’t use a public toilet. “I prefer going to a Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) over a public bathroom. With CCD, I am at least sure the toilet would be clean,” says Gayathri Shetty, chairperson, Institute of Indian Interior Designs.
While maintenance by government agencies remains an issue, is there a way to build efficient toilets that would require least amount of maintenance, one wonders.
Design Should Take
Kavita Sastry, principal architect at KS Designs, weighs in. “Design shouldn’t be an afterthought among government agencies while planning a public toilet,” she says.
She adds that design and maintenance are the two things that are neglected when it comes to public toilets in the city. “The toilets at Metro stations are unusable,” she says.
So, ideally what design should a public toilet follow? “A good design is an inclusive one. The toilet needs to reflect the society strata of that area. It should be sensitive to elderly, transgenders and shouldn’t discriminate,” says Sandeep Jagadeesh, founder, Architecture Paradigm, Bengaluru.
Prahlad IM, training and research assistant at Sochara stresses on the need for research to finalise on a good public toilet. “Area and community specific research should be a requirement before designing a public toilet. People in slums won’t use the toilet in the same way as the rest of the city would,” he notes.
He adds that culturally, Indians look at urine and feaces as a matter of shame. “They look at it as waste and don’t care much about how they treat it,” says Prahlad while discussing abuse of public toilets. “They don’t flush or clean after use,” he adds.
Prahlad also calls for a behavioural change among the general public to ensure that the toilets are maintained well. “Those who have been defecating in the open wouldn’t be used to the idea of a public toilet. Behavioural change is required in such cases. They need to be educated accordingly,” he says.
Talking about abuse, Kiran Venkatesh, cofounder of InFORM Architects notes that a lot of toilets at the Metro stations are damaged and have been broken down by the public.
Not Enough Suction
Several public toilets are ill maintained over the lack of water. Ravindra Kumar, principal architect at PRAGRUP, Bengaluru notes that good plumbing would ensure that less water is used to flush. “Indian toilets in public buildings and in apartments lack the suction pressure. If you ensure good plumbing, you will waste less on water,” he explains.
Kiran believes that technology could help the cause. He says that in Singapore restrooms are managed by non-government organisations and are mapped online. “The loo maps are available online and users can rate these public restrooms from one to five. These would involve restrooms in shops and schools too,” he says.
Shopkeepers later figured that footfalls in their store had increased because their loos had better ratings on the app. “Now, there is an unsaid competition among the shopkeepers. They are all fighting for a five star rating,” he says. Contd p3