The twin cities, like other larger cities in the country, have an open defecation problem that goes under the radar given the federal capital’s clean and green status.
Both cities share a measly sum of 27 public latrines situated in recreational spaces and main thoroughfares out of which 17 lavatories are in Rawalpindi and 10 are in Islamabad. The operations of these public washrooms are handled by private contractors, who pay Rs5 per person to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Metropolitan Municipal Corporation (MMC) as per their tenders. To make a profit, these private contractors charge anywhere from Rs30 to Rs50 per person.
Despite the hefty charges, sanitation is non-existent. Sharif Qureshi, a tourist visiting Shakar Parian, while talking to The Express Tribune said, “the stench in the lavatories is so bad that tourists, men and women alike, are forced to use the nearby open forest as a latrine.”
Similarly, Nadeem Sheikh, who was sightseeing at Daman-e-Koh which gets a massive influx of tourists daily, expressed disappointment at the lack of hygienic toilets at the popular spot. Sheikh, visibly frustrated, said that there was no other option apart from defecating in public.
If the lack of soap and towels along with dilapidated conditions was not enough to deter the public, an inconsistent water supply turns away even those willing to pinch their nose and answer a call of nature. Chaudhry Tahir Ikram, leader of the Clerk Bar Association in District Courts Islamabad, said, “People who come to the court for their cases are not allowed to use the bar member toilets so they pay Rs40 to use the nearby public washroom but the problem is it runs out of water after 10 am.” Ikram said that he had never seen a towel in this lavatory but he had to see their filthy condition daily.
James Daniel, who holds a contract for one of the few public latrines in Islamabad, denied claims regarding hygiene and sanitation. “These are all baseless allegations as all the toilets are thoroughly cleaned in the morning and then cleaned again two or three times in the day,” he informed The Express Tribune. “The Rs30 to Rs40 fee is justified as the raw material for cleaning toilets is expensive due to inflation, I have salaries to pay to my cleaners and supervisors, and have a hefty water bill to take care of as well,” said Daniel.
Apart from the leaking faucets, uncleaned faeces and graffiti on the walls are also hallmarks of public latrines in the twin cities therefore the public turns towards toilets in government buildings. Nabil Hassan, who was running an errand at the Islamabad Secretariat, said that even the lavatories in government buildings are a disappointment.
“The clean washrooms are reserved for VIPs or employees, they are concerned about us commoners,” said Hassan. He further said that even if men could somehow use these broken down toilets, there was no hope for women. “Hundreds of women visit government offices for one thing or another daily, they do not have hygienic latrines to use, either outside or inside the buildings,” he said.
Citizens of the twin cities are united in their loathing of public latrines and a few termed it an act of bravery to even go inside one let alone use it. However, Capital Development Authority (CDA) spokesman, Asif Mehmood, was not sold on these claims of lack of sanitation.
He said that the contracts of public toilets are awarded in the open auction and mandatory cleanliness is included in the terms of the auction. “If we receive any complaints about the cleanliness of these washrooms we immediately take notice,” he told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2021.
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