Public Toilets in Chennai

Sanitation is often called the “orphan MDG,” and India ranks among the worst countries in the world in terms of access to sanitation. In the city of Chennai, sanitation for the poor has not been articulated as a priority by city managers. Transparent Chennai – a project that collects and creates maps, data, and research about the city to empower citizens and increase government accountability - conducted extensive research on one aspect of sanitation for the poor i.e. public toilets, and our work revealed alarming findings. There are only 714 public toilets in the city of Chennai, for a population of 46.81 lakhs.1Of these 714, Transparent Chennai mapped and surveyed the 49 toilets in Zone 4. Despite evident need, we found that many toilets were not being used very much by women or children. This is because toilets are often poorly maintained, locked at night, charge user fees through a process of what appears to be informal privatization, and are located away from areas of greatest need, such as market areas, bus stops, areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, informal workplaces, and undeveloped slums. Budget allocations for public toilets are meagre, yet sometimes remain unspent. Data on public toilets are poorly maintained in the city, suggesting a poor knowledge base for adequate planning and monitoring of toilets. Interviews with government and civil society revealed that there is very little clarity on who is responsible for increasing access to sanitation for the poor, for public toilets, or for access to sanitation in informal, undeclared settlements, and that this lack of clarity applies to both the top and bottom levels of government. Transparent Chennai recommends that the government improve data about sanitation needs and government resources, use this data to spend more on toilets in a targeted manner, and to create lines of accountability on both public toilets and access to sanitation for the poor at all levels of government. The remainder of this issue brief summarizes the process, findings, and recommendations of the study on public toilets.
The Centre for Development Finance organized a public consultation for informal sector workers in 2009 to enable them to provide inputs for the new City Development Plan. The meeting was attended by over 300 workers, more than half of whom were women, and who represented a wide range of organizations and professions in the informal sector. In articulating their various needs for city infrastructure, one key element that women workers emphasized was the need for public toilets at workplaces such as market areas, bus stops, and in underserviced slum areas. Transparent Chennai decided to gather more information about public toilets in the city and how they are planned. Download Complete Report

(Source: Somya Sethuraman, Researcher, Transparent Chennai)

Public Toilets by Transparent Chennai Issue Brief[1].pdf763.59 KB
version - 6.22-2011.05.27-01