Not Enough Toilets for Mumbai’s Slum Dwellers

A study by students of Harvard School of Public Health reveals some very interesting insights about basic sanitation facilities and urban public health in Mumbai.

“Poor sanitation is one of the most important underlying causes in the country’s pervasive malnutrition,” Dr. Richard Cash of the Harvard School of Public Health

The study looks at toilet facilities in Cheeta Camp, a planned slum.Harvard School suggests that the students saw toilets as a way to delve into the inner workings of the community, to see what worked and what did not. The first thing the students found was that nobody really knew how many toilets were in the camp: the local authorities said one thing, local nongovernmental organizations another.

Interestingly, half of the ad-hoc toilets in the slum, are not functional. Even when they are, people prefer to use the paid toilets over these government toilets.

The clean pay toilets seem to have made a difference: “Now we don’t have to spend so much on doctors. Previously we had to struggle a lot, but now are happier,” said Kanis Sayyed Hashim, a 45-year-old mother who has lived in the slum for 26 years and said her children get sick less now that they use the pay toilets.

The lack of basic services in Cheeta Camp is typical of Indian slums. By mapping the locations and functionality of the toilets, the students echoed a process that had been used by slum dwellers organizations in India to force government to act. The act of naming streets, counting citizens and mapping facilities turns information into an advocacy tool.

Read the complete report here:Mapping Toilets in a Mumbai Slum Yields Unexpected Results

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