LAHORE: According to rough estimates Lahore is home to nearly 10 million people. Toilets especially at public places are must and provided in almost every city of the world. It is ironic that as the city braces for mega development projects there is little stress on providing basic facilities to people. The city has only 10 operational public toilets.

According to sources at the City District Government Lahore there are only 10 operational public toilets in the city. The one at Moon Market, Allama Iqbal Town is being reconstructed and would be auctioned on its completion. Other nine public toilets are located at Dispensary Lorri Adda, Fruit Market Ravi Road, Truck Adda No I, Truck Adda No II, Madina Market, Shah Alam, Liberty Market, Services Hospital and Ichra Market.

Public Facilities department of CDGL was tight lipped on the issue. Sources in CDGL told The Nation that for last four years summaries have been moved to the finance department of Punjab government to build 10 more public toilets but no response has been received so far. “This year 30th June is the last date for expiry of the auctioning of the washrooms/bathrooms and after that new auction will be announced. If we get appropriate reply and funds allocated for the establishment of more public toilets the situation would improve overall,” the sources said.

Two decades ago there were 40 public toilets in the city and with each passing year the number has been on the decline. “Policy to build new public toilets has been envisaged but the funds allocation is the biggest hindrance to implement this policy,” sources said.

The condition of these public toilets is deplorable. There are no commode toilets that can be used by senior citizens or by those who have been advised to use them. All public toilets have been built on the old WC toilet style. But both are not kept in clean hygienic conditions.

On the other hands, Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) also have public toilets in the parks and most of them are functional except for a few which are not in good condition. “If water is available to parks’ washrooms then electricity is not available,” Shamir Ahmed, who is regular visitor of Gillani Park (Previously Race Course Park), said. There are some commode toilets there in this park but interestingly none of them have seats where one can sit. Therefore, their usage is out of question.

The department concerned has been waiting for funds since 2010 when survey was conducted to construct new public toilets in Johar Town, Faisal Town and Thokar Niaz Biag areas.

According to Unicef data, 41 million people in Pakistan lack access to adequate toilets that force them to defecate in public areas making it third largest country behind India and Indonesia where people don’t have access to public toilets.

The situation is worse for women who are regular visitor of markets and upon attending call of nature it becomes difficult to find a toilet in city’s markets. According to United Nations study published in 2013 that finding a phone is easier than finding a toilet. Official charges for using the public toilet if from Rs 5 to Rs 10 per person but the reality is that they charge Rs 10 to Rs 30. Due to unsatisfactory condition of the public toilets women rarely used public toilets

Maryam Hussain, teacher by profession and working as human rights activist said that “PML-N led Punjab Government has been spending billion dollars on the mega projects like Orange Line Metro Train but at the same time citizens of Lahore are deprived of basic facilities like availability of clean water and access to public toilets.”

“There must be a transparency in spending money and proper funds should be allocated for the public toilets in the city of 10 million people. It is tax payers right to have access to basic facilities,” she said.

According to Unicef progress report 2013- 2015 results for children in Pakistan which stated that 10 million fewer people practicing open defecation by 2017 which detrimentally affects children’s lives, making them more susceptible to stunting and exposing them to the risk of diarrhea, polio and other diseases. Unicef is supporting Pakistan Approach to Total Sanitation (PATS).

A survey conducted by The Nation showed that most of the open defecation is being practice in sub-urban areas, markets and in villages on the outskirts of city.

The Unicef report showed only 64 percent of Pakistan’s population uses improved sanitation, with wide disparity between urban 83 percent and rural areas 51 percent. The rural versus urban statistics showed that only 21 percent population in Pakistan openly defecated and only 1 percent urban population practices open defecation. (Photos by Mohsin Raza)