Why are most public bathrooms poorly maintained & locked?

For over six months, residents at Ramanathapuram in Ernavoor have been using the open ground nearby for their sanitary needs, as the public toilet in their locality is unusable.
Representative image
Representative image

CHENNAI: Several public toilets in the city are either locked or under poor maintenance. This has led to defecation in adjoining streets and/or next to locked toilets. People also complain that they are forced to pay to use free toilets.

For over six months, residents at Ramanathapuram in Ernavoor have been using the open ground nearby for their sanitary needs, as the public toilet in their locality is unusable.

“Roof leaks during the rainy season. The building is weak; it may collapse any time, and not hygienic. We don’t have enough money to construct toilets on our own. For all these years, we’ve been dependent on public toilets,” said Dhanam (45).

Women and children who use the ground at night are worried for their safety. There are no portable bio toilets either. Though multiple complaints were raised about the issue to the civic authorities, no steps have been taken.

In the city, public toilets overall are locked or not maintained properly. People use the streets to relieve themselves. For women and children, the situation is worse, as they’re fully dependent on the goodwill of restaurants.

In some places, though the toilets are functional, there is no water facility. At times, there’s not even a dustbin to dispose sanitary napkins.

Recently, a new public toilet was constructed in front of Amma Unavagam near Perambur Loco Works Railway station. But it’s locked all the time and yet to be open for public use. “Cows have been tied to the gates and fodder has been stored inside the building. When asked about it, the GCC officials told us in February that this toilet will be demolished and reconstructed. However, there has been no change till now,” lamented Raghukumar, a resident of Perambur.

Public toilets are supposed to be free in the city, but caretakers are known to collect a nominal fee to maintain them.

“They’ve been collecting money, but the toilets are always unclean,” pointed out S Nedumaran, a resident of Ambattur. “Why pay then? Though we argue the case, they ignore us.”

In addition to levying a fee, people suggest that the government must consider handing over public toilets to an NGO, which can maintain the facilities with help of corporates under the CSR scheme.

According to GCC press release, there are 7,590 public toilets at 943 places in the city. A total of 366 toilets are poorly maintained. In places where the crowd throngs, authorities have decided to construct new toilets at a cost of Rs 36 crore.

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