BENGALURU: Bengaluru is going to show the rest of the state how ‘pink toilets’, meant for women and children, can be done right. In October 2017, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation inaugurated the first ‘pink toilet’. Based on the Delhi model, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has recommended opening pink toilets in Karnataka and the pilot is to be launched in this city.
Users of public toilets say that accessibility would be their top concern, even before cleanliness. Experts in community health say that security and maintenance should be factored in too.
Kranti Jha , a construction worker who uses the public facility, says that toilets are critical to labourers like her. “Otherwise, where do we relieve ourselves during the day? Often they aren’t maintained well, but it is better to have them around than having to go far away in search of a cleaner facility.”
Other users say that charges, however minimal, are hard on their meagre pay. Divya, a daily wager, says that she can’t afford to pay cash every day. “But I don’t have a choice since pay-and-use is the only one availble around here,” she says, hoping that the pink toilets would be free for all.
Prahlad IM, who works for SOCHARA or Society for Community Health Awareness Research and Action, has been working for over 12 years in sanitation and has even been consulted for programmes for Karnataka.
Place it in high-density areas
Ask the users for suggestions, he says. “To make an initiative successful, there has to be community participation.” Of the location of these toilets, he says that they should be near Metro line, parks such as Lal Bagh, petrol bunks and malls. “If pink toilets are being constructed in or near Metro stations, then it’s maintenance should also handled by the Metro officials rather than leasing out the job to any local contractors. Also, based on the population of the area, the number of latrines should be decided. It doesn’t make sense to have just one or two latrines near a bus stand where so many people will be using a toilet throughout the day.”
Design and location important
Well known water activist and educator Vishwanath Srikantaiah says, “Human geography of where it is placed is important. Gender-specific areas should be recognised, for example, Peenya industrial area has a lot of women workers who would benefit from the construction of pink toilets. Similarly having one near Indira Amma Canteen would be appropriate since the lower income strata come here regularly. Secondly The second aspect would be how the toilets are designed. The best way to get women to use the toilets is to ensure that there is proper lighting and security. They should be designed in such a way that dignity of women is respected. The toilets should have women employees look after them. It should also be constructed and designed by a woman architect. Thirdly, menstrual hygiene should be considered. Good dispensers that are convenient to operate should be designed looking into the pricing. The incinerators should be able to dispose of bio- medical waste and the waste should be properly segregated.”
Keep it local
Vishwanath who is an urban and regional planner by profession says that the best quality material should be used to design the toilets and a universal design has to be adopted. Gramalaya, an NGO in Tamil Nadu has been constructing toilets in rural India for over two and a half decades. They have looked into factors such as affordability, geographical conditions, availability of water, space, cultural issues while building a toilet. Several toilet designs such as plinth level toilets, toilets made with hollow bricks, bio- digester toilets, twin pit latrines etc. are cost effective and sustainable. The Centre for Toilet Technology and Training which is a part of NIWAS (National Institute of Water and Sanitation) is located at the Gramalaya Training Centre.
Varalakshmi VS the co-founder and CEO of Aa foundation for Community Developement, a community based organisation says that construction of a toilet along with a bathroom costs around `15, 000 to 20,000 approxiamtely and it might be slightly higher in the urban areas. “But first get the men to use toilets,” she says, “they often are seen using public areas to urinate.”
‘Post boxes’ for sanitary pad
Also in order to dispose of sanitary napkins, the post box method should be used where in a proper machine is kept at several locations just the way post boxes were seen everywhere several years ago.
Varalakshmi says, “Often I see women or girls staying in paying guest accomodation near my home just throwing sanitary pads onto the open roads from the window”.
Used as storage
The Infosys foundation backed by Sudha Murthy recognised the need for constructing toilets for women. The sanitation situation in India was very bad and their work started around 20 years back. Later on after two years, when she checked on the progress she was shocked to see that sometimes these toilets were used as store rooms and not utilised for their actual purpose. This is very common in the rural areas where women decide to utilise the open space to relieve themselves as they feel cooped up inside a toilet or simply are not used to the idea of breaking an age old tradition.
What do pink toilets have?
These pink toilets will have several features apart from being painted pink and supplied with sanitary napkins in vending machines and incinerators. The model proposed will have low height toilets and basins for children, a woman caretaker, a hygienic space for child care and breast feeding, helpline numbers, location of the toilets on a mobile app, ramps for the differently-abled.