Picture 1: Public Toilets in TirupatiMaking a case for public toilets

Toilets are a basic necessity but often taken for granted by those who have regular access. Poor public and community toilet services are one of the most visible symptoms of inadequate urban sanitation services in India (Public and community toilets summarized as public toilets for ease of communication). The pace of development in housing and public transport has not been matched by accessible and functional toilet amenities. Citizens, especially in high footfall areas including market places, bus stands and railway stations often cannot find a public toilet when they need one. Efficient public toilet management is especially crucial for cities with a large floating population – tourists, pilgrims, migrants, and transiting population – throughout the year.

According to official figures, 6% of urban households do not have toilets at home but depend on public facilities and community toilets. Added to that is 13% of urban households that do not have access to any toilet (at home or public) and need to resort to defecating in the open. Moreover, although sewage systems widely exist, over 37% per cent of faecal matter is not disposed off safely. These critical conditions pose significant public health and environmental risks, threatening the long-term growth trajectory of India's urban centres that currently contribute 60% to the national GDP, equivalent to US$ 50 billion. Improvements in public toilet management positively impact the cities’ economic, social and ecological environment (Figure). Subsequently, under the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission a total of 251,830 community toilet seats and 255,757 public toilet seats are to be created by 2019.

GIZ Programme

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) have come together to jointly implement the “Support to the National Urban Sanitation Policy II (SNUSPII)” Programme. The overall objective is to support the Ministry in achieving the targets of the National Urban Sanitation Policy: 100% open defecation-free, healthy and sanitized cities.

To do so, the GIZ Programme supports different cities in the sustained management of public toilet facilities. Learning and experiences are shared with stakeholders to replicate proven successful models and enhance their effectiveness.

NUSP is supporting the access to sanitation through the development of City Sanitation Plans (CSPs) (including the planning of public toilet provision at the city level). The SBM flagship programme funds the development of public, community and individual toilets and provides process support. The GIZ SNUSP II Programme works closely with both government initiatives.

Public Toilet Management: Challenges and Process

Most often, sanitation models fail in their operations and management after a couple of years due to inadequacies in one or a combination of the planning, financing, operations and management of public toilets. The most common shortcomings are summarised in Figure.

In response to these challenges, GIZ and its partners reviewed the public toilet management in two cities (Tirupati and Shimla). They, jointly with the municipality and other stakeholders, devised and implemented strategies including new management models, technologies and crosscutting approaches that bring about sustainable improvements. It becomes clear that while designing and managing public toilets, special attention should be paid to the following success factors (Figure):

Success Factors

Building on the research and results of the city interventions, GIZ has documented the Public Toilet Management (PTM) process to guide cities and other stakeholders toward improved public toilet management and to ensure successful replication across cities. The process highlights important focal areas, main steps and tools for sustainable public toilet management as well as key learnings from the interventions in Tirupati and Shimla.