After years, Chennai to get new toilets

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India-Sanitation-Summit-Sanitation-for-All-Toilet-First-6-Feb-2015-New-Delhi-300x180CHENNAI: Under fire for poor sanitation standards, Chennai Corporation has finally issued long pending orders to four firms to set up and maintain public toilets across the city. Contracts have been awarded to Namma Toilet, Saraplast, Eram Scientific Solutions and Wockhardt. They will build public utilities will at 202 locations in Chennai.

A corporation official said construction was underway at 34 locations. “The project envisions public toilets at a total of 348 spots. Work orders for the remaining tenders will be issued soon,” said an official.

Sanitation has always been a thorn in the civic body’s side.

Chennai has 828 public toilets, including 161 in the extended areas, for a population of 65 lakh.

Experts say at least 2,000 facilities are required for this population, but the corporation’s stringent tender conditions–which prohibit levy of user fees–had until now discouraged private firms from bidding.

The corporation’s own efforts to operate public toilets have proved a L failure due to poor I maintenance.

Rajeev Kher, founder-CEO of Saraplast, which will install 200 toilets in the first phase, said the civic body had tasked them with running tasked them with running and maintaining toilets for a fixed fee unlike in the past when contractors were asked to build and hand over facilities. Agreeing that maintenance was a challenge, Kher said the toilets will be looked after by an attendant on a eighthour shift.

“We have identified the doors of these facilities as the core problem. If the door is left open due to damage, the public will be reluctant to use it because of the stink and due to lack of privacy . The heart of a toilet is its door,” he said. He claimed the polyethylene material his firm used for manufacturing the toilets made them easier to clean.

“We will connect the toilets to a sewerage line wherever there is a direct facility available. At places where a direct sewerage line is not available, we will install a septic tank,” he said.

The e-toilets, which will be installed by the Kerala-based firm, too will be fully automatic and equipped with global positioning system sensors. Wockhardt Foundation, on the other hand, will put up bio-toilets–as it did in Mumbai–which uses eco-friendly technology and is cost-effective as it breaks down the solid waste into water and biogas.

Previous experiments with private firms on maintenance of public toilets have run into problems. Sulabh International, an NGO, was in charge of maintaining 450 public toilets run by the corporation. The partnership soured in 2007 after complaints poured in that the toilets’ caretakers were fleecing users.

Residents complain that most existing toilets maintained by the corporation are poorly maintained. They also point out that not enough toilets are available on arterial roads or in crowded commercial areas. “It’s difficult to use any of the toilets in the city because of the stench. Normally ,I use restrooms of malls or hotels,” said K Vijayakumari, a commuter in Anna Nagar.

Corporation officials said the new model for sanitation was to get specialized firms to build and operate the amenities, but without any user fee.

“We will pay the firm for maintenance. We will also monitor it,” said an official. He said civic body has conducted a feasibility survey to identify locations for the toilets.

“The existing brick and mortar public toilets will be phased out after setting up the prefabricated toilets made of high-density polyethylene” he said.
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