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September 28, 2020

Citizens asked to maintain cleanliness as public toilets set up in Lea Market, Jheel Park


September 28, 2020

Next time when travellers from Balochistan, especially women and children, stopping by at the Lea Market inter-city bus station have to respond to the call of nature, they will have to look no further than portable toilets, which were placed in the area on Sunday.

The Salman Sufi Foundation (SSF), in partnership with the Sindh government and Harpic Pakistan, launched the pilot portable toilet project, ‘Saaf Bath’, in Karachi’s Lea Market and Jheel Park on Sunday in a ceremony held at the market.

There are two cubicles for men and two for women along with a special ramp for people with disabilities. Sindh Women Development Minister Shehla Raza, veteran actress Saba Hameed and SSF head Salman Sufi attended the inauguration ceremony.

The Lea Market was constructed in 1927 as a trading hub. Currently, the market, which lies in the Lyari area, is the first stop of passenger buses travelling from Balochistan. Since the market has no decent sanitation facility, these toilets can be a great facility, particularly for female travellers.

For maintenance and sanitation, Rs20 will be charged per use of a toilet. “The core of our foundation is women empowerment through practical changes on the ground. When we are trying to [make efforts for women’s] mobility, we are also making sure when they come out, we provide them facilities like bathrooms and other basic necessities,” Sufi said.

The portable toilets have been set up under 20-foot-long containers that have been placed at the Lea Market and Jheel Park with separate entrances for men and women along with a ramp for people with disabilities.

The foundation has also enployed trained sanitation technicians who would work under a supervisor at the public toilets. They also have a manual for the cleanliness of the toilets and would ensure continuous supply of hand sanitisers and water at the toilets.

In the female toilets, the foundation has made a room for baby care as well where women can change diapers of babies. A roster has been attached on the gates of the toilets, mentioning the number of times the toilets, handles, seats, sinks, mirrors, walls and trash cans had been tended to.

A performance indicator chart on a wall for the janitorial staff, seemingly to be filled by the janitorial heads, would keep track of the presence of personnel and whether they were delivering their duties.

The chart even has provision for mentioning stench or graffiti on the walls. The project primarily targets to benefit pedestrians, especially women, who do not have access to clean or safe public toilets.

The maintenance of the toilets, Sufi said, would be done by the foundation. “The foundation’s people will keep an eye on the janitorial staff,” he explained, adding that the Sindh government was also supporting them for the project.

Speaking at the ceremony, Saba expressed the wish that such a measure had been taken earlier. “Cleanliness is half the faith. This must be inside our mind,” she said, asking the people to stop blaming the government for garbage as cleanliness was the collective responsibility of all the citizens. She said she hoped that the people of Lyari would take good care of the toilets.

Sufi also said that it was the responsibility of the users to take good care of the toilets and follow the instructions mentioned on the doors so that those who used them the next time found them clean.

One of the janitors, Junaid, told The News how he was trained by the SSF for the cleanliness of the toilets. “All we want is people’s cooperation,” he said, adding that the more the users kept the washrooms clean, the longer they would remain functional.

One of the residents of Lyari, Hameed Khan, assured Junaid of his assistance for any law and order situation. “We will make sure that the washrooms don’t become a safe haven for drug-addled,” he said, adding that more than the people of Lyari, those toilets would be used of non-locals. More than 130 coaches way from Balochistan to the Lea Market daily, he said.

Raheem of the Café Noor Hotel, a tea kiosk opposite the toilets in the Lea Market, was, however, little upset with the charges of the toilets. “We are happy that there will be a clean washroom just in front of our hotel, but we can’t pay Rs20 every time the nature calls,” he said.