KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the provincial and local governments to establish public toilets and carry out maintenance of the existing lavatories at public places and government premises across the province.

The SHC also asked the provincial government and other authorities concerned that those facilities should be thoughtfully designed to cater to the specific needs of women, differently-abled individuals and the senior citizens.

It also ordered that committees must be methodically constituted at the divisional level under the vigilant supervision of commissioners concerned while for Karachi division, the committee would be headed by the mayor. Such committees would diligently oversee the restoration and maintenance of public lavatories as well as to specifically allocate public toilets for women across public spaces and government premises, it added.

The SHC further directed the secretary public health engineering & rural development department and women development department to diligently implement the Sindh Sanitation Policy 2017 besides adherence to the relevant provisions of the Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Policy 2017 in letter and spirit.

SHC orders facilities be designed with specific needs of women, differently-abled and senior citizens

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar passed these directives while deciding a petition seeking directives for the respondents to ensure that public toilets for male and female with required water and sanitation conditions are constructed and made functional within three months.

During the proceedings, a provincial law officer as well as counsel for the official respondents have also conceded that the public, especially women and children, were suffering a lot due to shortage or non-availability of public lavatories at public places.

The court was informed by the lawyer for the petitioner about the non-availability of public toilets at different places in Karachi while the respondents also filed some documents about various public lavatories which were in urgent need of repair in the provincial metropolitan and details of lavatories in different cities and towns all over Sindh.

The bench said the paramount obligation of the provincial government, the Karachi Development Authority (KDA), the Malir Development Authority (MDA), the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), town municipal corporations (TMCs) and other authorities concerned lay in conscientiously prioritising the construction, meticulous maintenance and seamless accessibility of public lavatories.

By adopting such measures, those authorities not only safeguard the intrinsic human dignity, but also proactively promote hygiene, thereby fostering the establishment of healthier and more inclusive communities, it added.

The bench also noted that the Sindh Sanitation Policy 2017 was duly approved by the chief minister and notified in May 2017 with the objective of enhancing sanitation services and fostering a hygienic environment for the denizens of Sindh, but it seemed that tangible measures to actualise the stipulations of that policy had yet to be undertaken.

It also observed that sufficient legislation, policies and charters were enacted and promulgated in the country regarding ensuring safe, clean and hygiene environment, but deplored that the same were rarely implemented by the executive while the public had also not sought its implementation apart from a few petitions owing to lack of awareness and interest.

“This directive serves to ensure that the stipulated sanitation and gender equality policies are not merely formalities, but are actively enforced and manifested in the tangible improvement of public facilities. The meticulous execution of these policies is essential for fostering an inclusive and hygienic environment for all citizens,” it added

Referring to some provisions of the Sindh Local Government Act 2013, the bench noted that such function came within the jurisdictions of TMCs and each TMC was independently obligated to establish and maintain such public toilets within each of their jurisdictions.

It directed the chief secretary of Sindh and additional chief secretary of the local government department to pursue compliance accordingly and asked the LG department, the DGs of the KDA and MDA and mayor of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to submit comprehensive reports regarding establishment, existence and maintenance of public toilets regularly. Such reports must provide an updated overview of the condition and operational status of all public lavatories located within various public venues, it said.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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