Toilets: Then and Now, Part 05; Public Toilets in Deplorable Condition

(unsanitary toilets for the public)

More toilets in the news

"Public toilets not properly maintained"

Most public toilets in the city remain unhygienic and dirty, facilitating the breeding ground for diseases.

The authorities, in charge of public facilities and conveniences, bother none, or little, about keeping them clean, sanitary and free from horrible smell.

The New Nation investigation showed the state of the toilets, both public and private, is awful; both hygienically for users and environmentally pollutant and humiliating for neighborhoods.

Apart from the 70 public toilets of the city corporation, toilets of most national landmarks, including the National Press Club, Institution of Engineers, National Museum, Nagar Bhaban, stadiums, markets, mosques, hospitals, universities, libraries, schools and colleges are terribly unhygienic. They also bear proof of the users’ unsanitary habits.

The city dwellers have to make do with these toilets under pressure, if any, but never for voluntary normal use.

According to the World Toilet Organisation, an average person visits a toilet 2,500 times a year and spends about three years of his life in toilet.

The Singapore-based organisation, which believes toilets indicate culture and civility, says toilets are not merely compost holes and are considered places for concentrating, resting and conversations for civilised people.

The Director General of the Directorate of Health Services, Professor Shahadat Hossain, said all kinds of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea could spread because of unhygienic toilets across the capital city.

The Dhaka City Corporation Chief Health Officer, Md Azizul Haq, said such toilets are breeding grounds of invasion of worms.

In addition to spreading diseases, dirty toilets also cause kidney failure, constipation and incontinence.

A large number of people avoid going to toilets just because they are unclean. "Particularly women and school children avoid toilets for a long period of time when they are out of home. This causes various health problems such as dehydration, urine infection, bladder disease, and anal fissure," said health specialist Nasrin Khan.

She said her children, who go to school, complain of their school toilets. They have developed a habit of not using toilets.

The government should begin a drive just like the drive against food adulteration, said a city corporation official.

The corporation should check the toilets at hospitals, government offices and institutions regularly, he said. "For hygiene, at least two things should be ensured: water and soap."

Investigation of the toilets showed that even the best of the toilets such as those run by the Baitul Mukarram Jewellers’ Association and the British Council do not have soaps, not to mention toilet paper.

The health directorate said it is the responsibility of the city corporation to check the toilets with public access. But the corporation said they had no such mechanism.

"The corporation health officer said it is not possible for the corporation to check routinely because of its inadequate manpower and resources.

"It is the duty of all. Media, imams, newspapers, you, me—everybody can help create awareness," said the health services director general.

The Bangladesh Environment Movement, which once conducted a campaign against unhygienic toilets, said a tougher law is needed to keep city toilets clean.

"There is a need to change the law. If in Singapore, even spitting is banned, why cannot we introduce tougher law for toilets?" said the organisation joint secretary, Mihir Biswas.

—By Sheikh Arif Bulbon; The New Nation, Banglades's Independent News Source; October 29, 2005

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