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Asia's largest slum Dharavi will soon accommodate the biggest hygiene and sanitation facility known as Suvidha Centre.
In a bid to improve living conditions of the residents, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has joined hands with a private firm to construct a two-storeyed community toilet. The civic body is expected to spend nearly ₹9 crores on the project.
According to India Today, the centre, considered to be one of the largest facilities in the city, will have as many as 111 toilet units along with an array of affordable hygiene solutions such as laundry service, designated bathing areas and a water ATM.
Reports have pointed out that it will be built on a 2,600-square metre plot in Dharavi, and the authorities have planned to complete the construction work by October 2, 2021.
"With the onset of the pandemic, it has become more critical than ever to provide hygiene and sanitation solutions to low-income urban households and especially to communities residing in congested arrangements," BMC said.
"In Dharavi, there was a large vacant land available for sewerage operation (SO) pumping station. We requested for some land off the same where the Suvidha Center will come up. It will be a boon for the local residents as we expect that at least 5,000 persons in the area will benefit from it," said Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner (G-North).
The commissioner further specified that the centre would not just cater to men, women and children, but would also have accessible washrooms for people with disabilities and also offer a safe and private facility for feminine hygiene.
"The centre will also be designed with safety in mind with separate entrances for women and girls. Specific toilets will open at night to help reduce the risk of violence that is so prevalent at many slum toilets," Dighavkar added.
It is being designed to ensure efficient use of resources while keeping the environmental impact of the operations in mind. There will be an optimum use of water and electricity.
Solar panels would be integrated to use renewable and clean energy. To avoid wastage of water, a circular usage mechanism will be implemented in which the water from the washing facilities will be used for toilet flush.
The Suvidha Centre aims to save and recycle over 75 lakh litres of water.
The unit will be set up in close consultation with the local community so that it enables active participation and income generation by running, cleaning and managing the centre's everyday operations.
"The centre will also provide laundry facilities with detergent to help members of the community save time, energy, and money. The clothes will be already 60% dry after washing. This is expected to be provided at a cost which, however, will be lower than market cost. Water will also be provided at a nominal cost of ₹1 for one litre. While at ₹150 for a month a family of five could access the toilets. Children will have free access to the toilets," the civic body said.
Dharavi Fights COVID-19
On Monday, March 8, Dharavi reported 18 COVID-19 cases, the highest daily rise since October. At least 12 new cases of the virus emerged on Wednesday, March 10.
According to Mumbai Mirror, the total number of cases have risen to 4,189. The local administration has reportedly also launched mobile van testing in the deep pockets of the region.
Dharavi is home to millions of people. The residents majorly comprise construction industry labourers, domestic workers working in the neighbouring localities and groups practising trades such as pottery and leather manufacturing. The localities are connected through narrow lanes with two or three-storied houses crammed with people beyond its capacity. This has been one of the biggest challenges during the pandemic since people fail to find space to quarantine themselves as well as maintain social distancing.
About 80 per cent of residents in Dharavi are dependent on community toilets and the BMC had been struggling to frequently disinfect and sanitise the units amid the rising cases. Reports also pointed out that the civic body has been conducting aggressive door-to-door testing to contain the spread of the virus.
A report by The Print highlighted that slum dwellers have been forced to use dirty and unhygienic community toilets for a long time now.
"This toilet is being used for 4,000 people living in the slum rehabilitation building opposite and the slums on all sides," said Sidharth Kasare, one of the residents.
The authorities expect that the sanitation centre will have a major impact on local communities as it will offer twin solutions —convenient and affordable solution to the community's civic woes and provide a means of employment in Dharavi.
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