There are only 714 public toilets in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, for a population of close to 5 million. Despite evident need, there is low usage of toilets by women and children, according to a survey of 49 public toilets in Zone 4 by Transparent Chennai.
The toilets in the survey were often poorly maintained, locked at night, charged user fees through a process of what appears to be informal privatisation, and were located away from areas of greatest need, such as market areas, bus stops, areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, informal workplaces, and undeveloped slums.
The worst example was the Ambedkar Nagar toilet, which had no water, all latrines were blocked, and appeared to be a breeding ground for flies. The caretaker of the toilet was being paid a regular salary by the Corporation, but was not able to administer the toilet properly as he lost his eyesight in an accident. The toilet compound was being used for used for smoking and drinking.
Data on public toilets are poorly maintained, and budget allocations for improvement are meagre. There is very little clarity on who is responsible for increasing access to sanitation in the city, especially for the urban poor, Transparent Chennai said.
The GPS locations for each of the 49 public toilets in Zone 4, along with pictures and toilet profiles can be accessed through ‘Toilet Layer’ on the ‘Build a Map’ feature on Transparent Chennai’s website. By the end of 2011, Transparent Chennai hopes to finish mapping all public toilets in the city with the help of volunteers and interns.
Read the full issue brief
Sethuraman, S. (2011). Public toilets in Chennai. (Issue brief). Chennai, India. Transparent Chennai. 6 p.
Related web site: Transparent Chennai – Sanitation
Transparent Chennai is a government accountability project housed at the Centre for Development Finance, Institute for Financial Management and Research, Chennai. It collects and creates maps, data, and research about the city to empower citizens and increase government accountability.