Poor sanitation standards across Karachi thoroughfares, government buildings, bazaars and recreation spots continue to wreak havoc on citizens’ lives with the nation’s pre-eminent city posting an abysmal number of public toilets.

Access 'denied'

A public toilet in the Hyderi Market area of Karachi

Poor toilet access stands exacerbated by the toll it exacts on the differently abled, women, children and the aged. While sheer desperation compels many men to routinely relieve themselves just about anywhere, the option largely eludes others aforementioned. Pressing, the practice has made already poor public health standards city-wide. Gulshan-e-Iqbal resident Irum Ahmed said poor toilet access left many women hassled. Several bazaars lack toilets. Others are reserved for employees. Regular shopping trips leave me vexed, she said.

Public toilets located across Karachi

Differently-abled Ahmed Ali said of the few functioning public toilets, none could be accessed by the challenged. Municipal authorities and the Sindh government should ensure public toilets were fit for the differently abled. Muhammad Ibrahim, 70, presented a novel take on remedying the situation. The Sindh government should crack a deal with owners of filling stations. Opening toilets across such sites would prove a godsend for women, children, the differently abled and the aged.  

Fleeting interest

A public toilet in Bohri Bazaar where citizens are charged Rs10 for using a stall with a door

The ‘interest’ of authorities in the phenomenon can be gauged from how not a single pertinent department has data on public toilets. No effort has been made to plug the void either till date, senior municipal officials told The Express Tribune. Four public toilets constructed near Shahrah-e-Faisal bus stops years ago remain inoperative. Of the 53 built by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), 33 continue to function. Seven were razed to make way for buildings while 13 have been rendered unusable by their dilapidated state or lack of running water.

Map shows functioning public toilets across Karachi (Complete data unavailable) 

District South officials said of the 21 public toilets located across the area, only six were operational. They were for men only. Officials said the remaining closed years ago. Of two mobile toilets, one had been scrapped while the other was undergoing repairs, they said.

Shelved plans

A public toilet on Shahrah-e-Faisal

Separately, two plans were formulated to remedy the problem. In 1999, a taskforce on municipal services was constituted under Katchi Abadis Director Tasneem Siddiqui. The team presented recommendations on traffic management, solid waste management, graveyards and other services. The aforementioned construction of 53 toilets by the CPLC was carried out following the submission of recommendations.
In 2012, Hamid Mustafa of the KMC presented a proposal envisaging the construction of hundreds of toilets across the city on the directions of Metropolitan Commissioner Matanat Ali Khan. The plan was shelved following Mustafa’s posting.   
CPLC District Central Chief Atiq Rehman told The Express Tribune no public funds were available to finance the construction and maintenance of toilets. He said the committee made do with whatever was received in the form of private donations. Rehman said new toilets had been constructed at Governor House and Jehangir Park. He said a private organisation was building toilets at the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. Rehman said the committee was running eight toilets. Other departments including Pakistan Railways had been handed over control of others, he added.

A recently constructed public toilet in Jehangir Park

Mustafa, a former KMC deputy director, said his 2012 plan envisaged the construction of toilets across public spots where water, power and sewerage facilities were available. Of the planned 800, 200 were to be built across metropolitan corporations. Construction of 120 toilets per district had also been approved, he said.
The erstwhile deputy director said many private concerns and philanthropists had expressed willingness to finance the project. This proved in vain as the project was abandoned following Commissioner Khan’s posting. He said he was sure the firms and individuals would pledge funds against if reached.
Karachi Development Authority (KDA) Traffic Engineering Bureau officials said the aforementioned four Shahrah-e-Faisal toilets were constructed after the then local government inked an agreement with a private company in 2005. Executed on a build-transfer-operate basis, the buildings also included shops. Officials said the toilets and shops were never opened for use. Later, the buildings were used as stores. In 2016, officials said, the buildings were sealed in line with KMC directives. The private company engaged in the project filed an appeal following the development. Officials said the matter remained sub judice.

Story by: Syed Ashraf Ali

Photos by: Jalal Qureshi

Produced by: Shaheryar Popalzai and Rahima Sohail

Edited by: Saad Saud