Capital’s civic mess

Covid era has seen Delhi’s containment zones battling civic issues; public and community toilet facilities remains in  shambles — with 1 toilet for 55 women in slums

Delhi is far from being a capital city of top-notch civic management. In fact, there are far too many sights of inadequacy, areas where people still don’t receive fresh drinking water in their homes, open defecation due to lack of working toilets, and lack of solid waste management — being just some of those.

A thorough study by the Praja Foundation has found that even during Covid – which saw the grim reality of the healthcare infrastructure when positivity numbers skyrocketed – areas with the greatest number of containment zones were also the ones which received the highest number of civic related complaints in 2020.

Areas of Karol Bagh, South, Civil Line, West and Keshav Puram zones had the highest number of Covid-19 containment zones as on June 27 of this year, according to the report. Three out of the top five with highest containment zones reported the highest number of sewerage related complaints and four out of five zones registered the highest number of sewage waste disposal (SWD) complaints. Similarly, of all the civic complaints, more than 40% of the complaints were in these five zones.

Karol Bagh, which had 442 containment zones saw 7,196 sewerage complaints, 8,431 water supply complaints and 690 solid waste management complaints amongst others.

The most complaints were in the West zone of Delhi, which had 115 containment zones. Here complaints on water supply were 21,365, followed by 18,019 of sewerage related issues and 1,330 of solid waste management issues.

In the South zone which had 209 containment zones, sewage related complaints were at 6,488, water supply complaints at 12,983 and solid waste management complaints at 1,935.

While water and sewage treatment come under the Delhi Jal Board over which the AAP-led Delhi government has jurisdiction, solid waste management comes under the Municipal Corporation – currently under the Centre-ruled BJP.

Praja highlights that both the MCD and DJB complaint management systems do not have a mechanism where the citizen can track the status of their complaints. “There is no centralized mechanism for citizens to ensure that complaints are solved in a timely manner. Action Taken Reports (ATR) are not generated in the MCD complaints system”, it adds.

In the MCDs, complaints received in 2020 against SWM were 28,149. Even complaints against “nuisance due to stray dogs, monkeys etc.” were at a high with 11,390 complaints in 2020. The greatest number of complaints received by the MCDs were in fact over “Unauthorised Construction/Development” of buildings at 44,190.

During the pandemic, when waste management should be of critical importance, 19% (5,332) of total (28,149) solid waste management (SWM) complaints were related to garbage not being lifted and collection points not attended. Majority of the complaints, at 70% (19,672) were related to lifting of dead animals/debris.

The poor condition of Azadpur Mandi toilet Credit: Delhi Youth Organisation

On the other hand, the DJB received the greatest number of complaints regarding its water supply in 2020, with 1,40,603 complaints. This was followed by sewer complaints at 83,357 the same year.

Praja points out that overall complaints in DJB have increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020. The highest increase is regarding overall water supply by 21% and sewer related by 6% from 2019 to 2020. Complaints relating to ‘No Water’ have increased by 20% from 51,965 in 2019 to 62,191 in 2020.

At the same time the budget utilisation from the budgetary allocation for Civic Issues in 2019-2020 saw SDMC under utilise its budget with only 43% used of the planned budget. NDMC and EDMC did better in this regard with 71% and 72% respectively.

Furthermore, the SDMC utilised just 19% of funds given under the ‘Swachh Bharat mission’ while NDMC and EDMC used 96% and 74% respectively.

Which brings us to the other important aspect of public and community toilet facilities in the city. Nitai Mehta, Founder Trustee at Praja, says that severe disparities were noticed in Delhi’s toilet facilities; as only 1 in 3 public toilet seats were for women. Furthermore, 1 in 10 MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) toilets are not connected to a piped sewerage and a similar number have no electricity. Astoundingly 16% of MCD toilets also do not have a water connection.

Delhi Youth Association pointed out that in Azadpur Mandi which is Asia’s largest wholesale market of fruits and vegetables, the urinal house has been demolished. This happened a few months back, and till now has not been built back, “people are suffering a lot and there is a lot of filth!” they have said.

In 16% of all toilets, Praja finds, there was no water connection available while 10% of them had no electricity, a major safety concern rendering the public toilet unusable at night.

10% of the total households did not have access to toilets within the premises, majority of which (68.8%) used public/community toilets, highlighting the importance of coverage and equity factors of public/community toilets.

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) Urban Guidelines, 2017 for community and public toilets the prescribed norms for number of toilet seats are as follows: Public Toilets 1 seat for 100- 400 males 1 seat for 100- 200 females. For community Toilets 1 seat for 35 males 1 seat for 25 females

On ground, the DUSIB (State) Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board has 12,657 seats for men, while for women there are 10,059 with a disparity between male and female at 21%.

The highest disparity was seen in the EDMC where the seats for men were at 905 compared to 689 for women, giving a disparity of 24%. This was followed by NDMC which had 3,069 seats and 2,496 for women — seeing a disparity of 19%. SDMC at the same time had 1,535 seats for men and 1,372 for women with a disparity of 11%.

Shahdara South (636 male and 259 female seats) and South Zones (755 male and 243 female seats) had the worst disparity. Currently, in slums, there is only 1 toilet seat for 55 women.

(Cover image: Representational Image/ Credit: Sashikala VP)

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