SHC irked by lack of public toilets

November 07, 2010

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KARACHI, Nov 6 The Sindh High Court on Friday ordered the City District Government Karachi to place before it details of public toilet facilities across the city.Expressing serious concern over the absence of a public toilet system in the city, a division bench also directed the chief secretary and the advocate-general to collect information from each district of the province about the availability of toilet facilities at public places.

The bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam put off the hearing to a date to be fixed later by the court's office after the CDGK law officer, Manzoor Ahmed, undertook to look into the issue.

Earlier at the outset of the hearing, the city government law officer placed on record a statement that listed only 17 places, all in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Town, where public toilets existed.

The bench observed that the number of public toilets in the city was “highly insufficient” and it was “indeed a matter of serious concern for any city government”.

The bench directed the CDGK to collect information from all local towns where such a facility was provided. It also directed the city government to inform the court that what measures were to be taken in the coming days to provide public toilet facilities in the city.

The petition was moved by the chief of the Rah-i-Raast Trust, Agha Syed Ata Ullah Shah, who requested the court to declare public toilets and toilet users' rights as essential fundamental human rights.

The petitioner also prayed to the court to direct the provincial government to ensure that public toilets with required water and sanitation conditions were constructed and made functional within three months at all public places throughout the province.

He submitted that there were no toilets for public use at police stations, TPO offices, government hospitals, schools colleges, shrines, markets, city government offices, town nazims' offices, parks, utility stores, playgrounds, bus stops and banks.

The petitioner stated that most of the existing toilets for patients in hospitals and for students in educational institutions were not functional.

The NGO chief submitted that women and children suffered most due to the unavailability of toilets at public places as men usually relieved themselves on isolated footpaths, under trees, in playgrounds, under bridges and in bushes, ignoring all ethical and other norms and thus causing environment pollution.

He said the indecent practice had become common in Karachi due to the indifference of the civic agencies towards the need for a decent public toilet system.

According to a statement later filed by the petitioner, there are 182 graveyards in Karachi. Of them, 163 are for Muslims and 19 for non-Muslims. As many as 70 graveyards fell under the control of the CDGK, while 112 others were looked after by different associations, but these graveyards were without public toilets.

The petitioner stated that there were more than 970 chowks/bus stops in the city and the CDGK had so far rented out more than 250 bus stops for opening shops as well as for the display of commercial billboards, but no public toilet system was available at any bus stop or along a thoroughfare.

He said there were 18 towns and 178 union councils in the city and each of them had more than one shopping centre and markets without public toilets.