There are only 49 public toilets for the five million people who commute daily on the roads of Dhaka. Most of these public toilets are unusable, revealed a recent study by WaterAid.
"To improve this situation, WaterAid Bangladesh became the first organisation to take steps under the theme 'Making the Public Toilet Work.' They have so far built 30 public toilets in partnership with Dhaka North and Dhaka South City Corporations," said Hasin Jahan, country director, WaterAid Bangladesh, during a roundtable meeting at a hotel in the capital on Thursday on the occasion of World Toilet Day 2021.
Chief guest at the programme, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "The city corporation currently has funds to build 35 public toilets. I have asked the councillors to inform me where toilets can be built."
He said CCTV cameras are being installed in the existing public toilets to ensure public safety.
The Dhaka North mayor also said, "The house owners have to set up septic tanks within six months. Otherwise, they will be fined. If action is not taken now, the lake water will be wasted, which is unacceptable."
"In areas like Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, household sewage flows into the nearby lakes and mixes with water. This mismanagement cannot be allowed to continue," he added.
This year's theme for the World Toilet Day is about valuing the toilets. The campaign draws attention to the fact that toilets – and the sanitation systems that support them – are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world, with devastating consequences for health, economics and the environment, particularly in the poorest and most marginalised communities.
The UN said the advantages of investing in an adequate sanitation system are immense. For instance, every $1 invested in basic sanitation returns up to $5 in saved medical costs and increased productivity, and jobs are created along the entire service chain.
For women and girls, toilets at home, school and at work help them fulfil their potential and play their full role in society, especially during menstruation and pregnancy.
"How civilised a city is depends on their public toilet system. We are far behind in that regard. There are very few clean toilet facilities for women in our city," Dr Lelin Chowdhury, a preventive medicine specialist, told the Business Standard.
"Due to the fact that women do not use the toilet for a long time, urinary tract infections, kidney problems and various other diseases are on the rise. Health risks will increase if there are no sanitary toilets in cities, villages and markets where people will gather in large numbers," Dr Lelin, a leader of the Paribesh Bachao Andolan (save the environment movement), said.
"In order to achieve SDG, it is necessary to increase the allocation in the wash budget and make a practical plan. Our wash budget is not allocated for the urban poor. To ensure toilet facilities for all, we have to make one type of plan for the city, another for remote areas," said Zobair Hasan, research director, Development Organisation of the Rural Poor (DORP) told TBS.
According to the United Nations, only 39% of the population in Bangladesh use a safely managed sanitation service.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires ensuring healthy toilets for all by 2030. That is why the government needs to increase the wash budget and make a practical plan, said experts.
According to the United Nations report, 32% of the 39% of the population covered by safely managed sanitation facilities are in the rural areas. In addition, 58% of the population has hand washing facilities with soap and water at home.