The fast-growing metro that Kochi is, it plays host to not just a large number of tourists, but also a whole lot of cultural events and programmes all throughout the year.
The city which was to be declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) last September, has a long way to go to achieve the tag. A sore lack of an adequate number of public comfort stations (consisting of bathroom and washroom) is very much felt both among the locals and visitors to the city.
The e-toilets that were set up at Fort Kochi, Boat Jetty, Mattancherry and the Town Hall with much fanfare now lie dysfunctional and neglected, while busy areas like Edapally, Vytilla and Kaloor don’t have even a single public comfort station in place.
Public toilets that operate within the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus depots at Kaloor and Ernakulam South Railway Station are so filthy that none in their right minds would want to use them, for fear of contracting some contagious disease.
The Swachh Bharat Mission that had ranked Kochi fifth in 2015 dropped the city to the 55th spot in 2016 due to the glaring lack of clean toilets in the city for public use.
“We have many people -especially women- approach us, asking us permission to use the wash-room. But we don’t permit them always, since we are often forced to clean up afterwards. It is a fact that there are not enough public toilets, and the existing ones are dirty,” says a trader who has a shop at the famous Broadway market in Ernakulam.
Public toilets at most bus depots in Kochi are in such a filthy state that commuters prefer to relieve themselves at some isolated corner of the depot, remarks a bus-driver attached to the South RTC stand.
“Everyday we see so many people from outside Kochi alight at the depots, desperately seeking in vain a clean, hygienic toilet for immediate use after a long journey. Women usually never dare to venture anywhere near the existing ones,” he points out.
According to Laksmi R who runs a boutique in Kochi, there is no point in the Corporation building more toilets, when they are unable to maintain even the few that lie scattered in and around the society.
Green toilets that were built at Kacheripady in 2012 and Palarivattom and Kakkanad in 2014 functioned for hardly a few months before these too were shut down for lack of maintenance.
As per reports, the Kochi Corporation spent almost Rs 50 lakh for setting up bio-toilets in the city. Not one of them is currently functional.
It is the women-folk who bear the brunt, as men simply choose to pee at any available corner.
Speaking to The News Minute, VK Minimol -chairperson of the Standing Committee for Health of the Cochin Corporation- reiterates the Corporation’s commitment to increase the number of comfort stations in the city:
“Under the Suchitwa Mission, we also intend to implement measures to renovate the existing ones. Unavailability of space was a major reason for setting up of more toilets. But we are in the process of sorting it out.”
The question however remains: Why was it then not done all these years?