Poor upkeep plagues Chennai’s public toilets – Times of India

Chennai News
CHENNAI: In a city that is officially open defecation-free, a boy found relieving himself on a road near MGR Central Railway Station said his mother told him it was cleaner and safer than in public toilets that hosted ganja peddlers and rowdies.

There are more than 870 permanent structure toilets and other temporary infrastructure, but people refuse to use them. The 151 e-toilets are defunct.
To change all this, Greater Chennai Corporation will improve, repair and rebuild toilets at 245 locations as part of a pilot project. Areas such as Marina, Walltax Road and Washermenpet will get better-looking toilets that will be geo-tagged and maintenance privatized for 7-8 years. Consultants have finalized designs and the corporation is in talks with the government on funding and performance indicators.
A corporation official said that earlier there were maintenance contracts for a year after which civic body workers maintained toilets. “There were no permanent staff.” A recent ward-level survey found that 30% of the 870-odd toilets were in good condition.
Now, the corporation will rely on performance indicators and levy penalty in case maintenance is poor. Tenders may be called in a month. “If this is a success, we will expand it across the city. For now, we are focusing on a few locations where infrastructure is poor and usage high,” said a senior official.
Vimal Athithan, principal architect of Abhya Associates which surveyed public toilet users, said the major hindrance was hygiene and maintenance. “The problems begin with vandalism, misuse and anti-social elements taking over public toilets. In slums, most women prefer to defecate in the open than use toilets. But men, use toilets. Also, women prefer restaurants, malls and petrol bunks than government constructed toilets,” he said.
The reasons are the same everywhere. “Public toilets lack napkin vending and disposal, there are no maintenance contracts, no community awareness and education on toilet usage and maintenance, and ceramic and metal infrastructure is often stolen.”
M Elangovan, executive director of Gramalaya which runs a successful SHE toilet model in Trichy, said the problem with privatization is that profit becomes the focus and high charges may deter users. “We focused on community-based development structure where a person from the area is made supervisor. That person gets a salary and uses the amount collected for maintenance. That person is always at the spot, ensuring there is no misuse,” said Elangovan.
Corporation officials plan to replicate the Tokyo model that focuses on construction material that cannot be vandalized and where the contractor maintains it for a minimum of 7-8 years. “We want to change the look and feel of public toilets. We are also studying the Kerala model of – Take a Break – where aesthetics along with proper ventilation and gardens is the focus. In future, many models such as café toilets or toilets with kiosks of ATMs and pharmacies may also be mooted to make more corporates build public toilets,” added the official.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/poor-upkeep-plagues-chennais-public-toilets/articleshow/88422459.cms