Inadequate number of public toilets is very common in urban areas. But, the situation in Barishal has got worse over the last four years with three public toilets out of 12 being closed down during the period.
A development structure replaced one at Natun Bazar. The rest two at Amanatganj and River Port were shut as people were reluctant to use those due to bad shape.
Now, the city’s entire 58 square kilometre area has only nine toilets for around six lakh dwellers.
Leased out to contractors by by Barishal City Corporation (BCC), these are located within 10 square kilometres -- including Rupatoli and Nathullabad, Barishal River Port, Green City Park, Choumatha, Amtola, Muktijoddha, and Sher-e-Bangla hospital areas.
The rest 48 square kilometre -- including Kawnia, Chawkbazar, Bagura Road, and Court Compound areas -- has no public toilet.
On the other hand, most of the nine toilets are in unhygienic condition forcing people to avoid those. Eventually, city dwellers who have to stay outdoor for a long time are faced with a dilemma.
Holding in excreta for a long time is harmful to health, and on the other hand, open urination or defecation contributes to environmental pollution. “So, what should we do?” said Rafiqul Alom, president of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), Barishal unit.
People irrespective of their age or status continue to pollute roadside walls, said the green activist.
Pedestrians, rickshaw-pullers, day labourers, hawkers as well as shopkeepers are making the already dirty drains or canals polluted, said Suvankar Chakrabarty, another green activist.
Those public toilets are not women friendly. There are common entrance and exit for both males and females, discouraging women to use those, said Rebeka Sultana from Katpatty area. “Besides, those are too dirty to use,” she said.
This correspondent found the floor of a toilet at River Port muddy and there was no lighting arrangement. Several taps were found damaged.
Similar situation was found in the shabby toilets at Sher-e-Bangla Medical College compound and Nathullabad bus terminal.
Montu Mia, caretaker of the River Port toilet, said, “The floor remains muddy even after cleaning.”
“At least 250-300 men use it per day while the number of women is only four to five. The entrance and exit are same for them,” he added.
Mostafizur Rahman, lessee of the toilet, said, “It remains unsanitary although it is cleaned repeatedly. It is very difficult to maintain hygiene. But we do not receive any complaint from any one over the matter.”
So, people are becoming reluctant to use public toilets, said Nazmul Alom Ovee, a college teacher, who has to use the one at Nathullabad. “I sometime use toilet at mosque,” he added.
About health implications of unhygienic toilets, civil surgeon Dr Monowar Hossain said various diseases may spread from those.
“So, we should be aware of maintaining hygiene and properly using those,” he added.
Kajol Ghosh, a cultural activist living in Nazir Moholla area, said, “At least one modern hygienic public toilet is needed at each of 30 wards.”
Md Anisuzzaman, chief engineer of BCC, said they have a plan to construct at least three modern and women-friendly public toilets this fiscal year. On the other hand, he said the closed down toilets may also be reopened with significant renovation.
When asked about the mismanagement of the toilets, he said, “We have not received any such allegations.”