Squalid, soggy, and full of foul odours – Dhaka’s public toilets are the rightful bearers of those three adjectives.
Public toilets are certainly not places that conjure up images of the good kind in our minds, but some 70 odd public toilets which are almost hidden in this city of over 16 million people, evoke the pictures of the nastiest kind.
The worst part is that most of those toilets are almost in non-functional conditions now, due to years of negligence by the respective authorities.
Finding no other options, a huge number of people in the city have developed the habit of open defecation. Unfortunately, for women, that’s not an option and they are the chief sufferers of the lack of decent toilets across the city.
New initiatives to improve the condition
The two mayors - Annisul Haq and Sayeed Khokon of the two city corporations - Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), have plans to change the existing scenario.
“We are planning public sanitation system in the city for all inhabitants of Dhaka, especially for pedestrians, commuters and women, and for those who have to spend long hours on the streets due to heavy traffic,” Khokon said.
He expressed the hope that no unusable public toilet will remain in the city after 2017.
The DSCC mayor however said that the city corporations alone cannot solve the problem of public toilets for Dhaka. “If you look at other modern cities across the world, you will see that large private corporations have played their part in building civic amenities like public toilets. We hope the same for Dhaka.”
The private sector initiative on the way
The private sector's initiative of solving Dhaka’s public toilet crisis is on the way as Bengal Foundation is planning to build public toilets in Dhaka.
Abul Khair, Chairman of Bengal Group has long been aggrieved by the appalling condition of the public toilets of Dhaka City. He wants to start changing this scenario for the city and plans of launching a social movement of building decent toilets in Dhaka.
Khair first talked about his plan of building decent public toilets across the city in the launching program of Bengal Institute of Architecture, Landscapes, and Settlement. That institute was launched by Bengal Foundation to increase sustainability and resilience of Dhaka's buildings and landscapes, and to make this city a better functioning city.
“Bengal Group has been able to bring changes and create social movement in the art and music arena of Dhaka city. The success of Bengal Art exhibitions and Bengal Music Festival proves that the people in this city have great appreciation for anything beautiful and aesthetic.”
“Now with our Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlement, we want to contribute in our urban scenario. One of our first project will be our public toilet project.”
He said that good public toilets are one of the main cornerstones of modern city. “If we want to make Dhaka a modern, functional metropolitan city, then there is no option but to tackle the sorry situation of public toilet here.”
Khair said that they have massive plan for building public toilets in Dhaka. “We will start by launching an architectural design competition for the public toilets of Dhaka. We will take the winning design to build the toilets.”