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Thursday June 13, 2024

SHC wants committees formed to oversee restoration, maintenance of public toilets

By Jamal Khurshid
May 18, 2024
The Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File
The Sindh High Court building in Karachi. — AFP/File

The Sindh High Court on Friday ordered the provincial government, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and town municipal corporations to submit comprehensive reports regarding the establishment and maintenance of public toilets throughout the province.

Issuing a detailed judgment on a petition with regard to inadequate public toilets at public places in the city, a division bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar observed that the after the Sindh Sanitation Policy 2017 was duly approved by the chief minister, tangible measures to actualize the stipulations of the policy have yet to be undertaken.

The court observed that the sanitation policy was aimed at enhancing sanitation services and fostering a hygienic environment for the denizens of Sindh. Petitioner Rah-e-Raast Trust through its chairman Agha Syed Attaullah Shah had submitted in the petition that every year the provincial government and local government are required to increase awareness about a better lavatories environment, but they have failed to take any action for providing better lavatories arrangements/environments to the public, especially women.

He sought declaration that public toilets and toilet users’ rights are essential fundamental human rights, being inevitable biological need, and an adequate number of functional public toilets at all places frequently approached by the public with sustainable sanitation is imperatively necessary for the health, comfort, honour, dignity, self- esteem and mental-peace of the public, including women and children.

He requested the court to direct the government to ensure that public toilets with required water and sanitation conditions are constructed and made functional at all public places throughout the province, including bus stops, markets, police stations, government hospitals, colleges, shrines, parks, picnic-points, tourism-spots, graveyards and playgrounds.

The petitioner’s counsel Tariq Mansoor also filed a statement pointing out the non-availability of public lavatory facilities at different places in Karachi. He submitted that 78 parks of the KMC are still without public toilet facilities, whereas no public toilet facility is available at 163 graveyards for Muslims and 19 graveyards for non-Muslims.

The counsel submitted that there were 33 prominent shopping centres or markets but there exists no public toilet facility, while 42 prominent roads of the city has no public toilet facility. He submitted that there were more than 970 chowks/bus stops in Karachi and the city government has so far rented out more than 250 bus stops for opening shops/display of commercial bill-boards etc., but the administration has failed to provide public toilet facilities thereon.

He mentioned that more than 133 general hospitals/clinics were without public toilet facilities for the visitors/attendants of patients as well as for the drivers of vehicles waiting outside these hospitals.

The court observed that the paramount obligation of the government of Sindh, the Karachi Development Authority, the Malir Development Authority, and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and the town municipal corporations lies in conscientiously prioritizing the construction, meticulous maintenance, and seamless accessibility of public lavatories.

The court observed that these facilities should be thoughtfully designed to cater to the specific needs of women, differently- abled individuals and the elderly. It further observed that it is incumbent upon the secretary of the public health engineering and rural development department as well as the women development department to diligently implement the Sindh Sanitation Policy 2017.

“This includes adherence to the pertinent provisions of the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Policy 2017, both in letter and in spirit,” the court noted in order. It further said the additional chief secretary, director generals of the KDA, MDA and Mayor of KMC are mandated to submit comprehensive reports regarding the establishment, existence and maintenance of public toilets regularly.

The court said these reports must provide an updated overview of the condition and operational status of all public lavatories located within various public venues. It said such directives serve to ensure that the stipulated sanitation and gender equality policies are not merely formalities, but are actively enforced and manifested in the tangible improvement of public facilities.

The court also ordered constitution of committees at divisional level under the vigilant supervision of commissioners of respective divisions and said these committees should be composed of relevant deputy commissioners, mayors, chairmen of town municipal corporations and all pertinent departments to oversee the restoration and maintenance of public lavatories and to specifically allocate public lavatories for women across public spaces and government premises.

The court observed that these committees shall ensure that these essential facilities remain operational, accessible without any financial burden (free of charge), unencumbered by obstructions, and impeccably maintained.

It said these committees through designated officers shall collaborate closely with the chairmen of the district councils/town municipal corporations to conduct regular inspections to verify that the demarcated areas designated for public lavatories remain free from encroachments are dedicated solely to their intended purpose.