Sanitation is one of the most integral element of any city’s cleanliness ambitions and achieving good sanitation is next to impossible without citizen participation. The Swachh Bharat Mission in India has prioritized sanitation and undertaking these initiatives not only in urban areas but rural regions as well.
While the rural sanitation campaign rests around the building of basic toilets in public areas and individual home toilets, urban areas have very novel issues to be addressed in space. Space, cost, water management, power provision, sewage disposal alignment with mains and their maintenance are few of the city specific issues. Neverthless, every city and its municipality are coming with innovative, cost effective and scale-addressing solutions for common areas and public toilets in the city.
For instance, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) will soon have smart public toilets with rooftop solar panels, Wi-Fi, ATMs, vending machines and water ATMs. Before announcing its budget for 2016-17, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) is working to finalise designs for 'smart' toilets, about 100 of which will be built in its area as part of a Smart City project. NDMC has to contribute Rs 604.74 crore towards the cost of the project while the urban development ministry, centrally-sponsored schemes and public-private partnership funds will provide the rest over a period of five years. NDMC had invited designs for smart public toilets from consultants, architectural firms and students in December 2015. "All the winning entries are disabled-friendly. They are compact, aesthetic, modular structures with self-cleaning systems," said H P Singh, superintending engineer, NDMC. The toilets will take up 200-300 sq ft space. At present, NDMC has 273 conventional toilets, of which 33 are located in the slums. At 47 of the locations, the toilets are disabled-friendly.
It is put forward that Smart Public Toilets will be operational from 6am to 10pm. "Instead of investing our energies in existing toilets we wanted to add to the number. It will be based on a PPP model. The private concessionaire can earn revenue from advertisements on these toilet units," Kumar said. The winning design is self-sustaining and operates on a 'pay and use' basis. It uses rainwater and recycled grey water (water from urinals and washbasins) to meet the water demands, and solar photovoltaic cells to meet electricity demands. They are all connected via sensors to one maintenance server at NDMC for regular maintenance. Vacuum-based water closets will be used to minimise water consumption. ATMs, vending machines, free WiFi and smart water dispensers are other highlights.
There are numerous such efforts that have been set in motion to improve the condition of public sanitation in the country. The key, however, is to synchronize these efforts in a unified effort in order to make them more effective. From innovations such as bio-toilets and bio-digesters to better planned distribution of toilets need to be taken into consideration in this endeavour.