Shouldn't bus terminals have toilets?

Shouldn't bus terminals have toilets?

A view of public toilet near Jyothi bus stand.

Last Saturday, November 18, was marked as World Toilet Day. Mark the word “marked” because there is nothing to celebrate. Transfer the imagery of the above anonymous epigram to the human bowels and bladders and you have them frustratingly uncontrollable while on longer outings in cityscapes. People coming from distant rural regions to cities like Mangalore have to run around to get their work done, have no easily accessible toilet facilities. Even people from the city and its peripheries who travel to the central business precincts in city or service buses have to cope with their pressured bladders and bowels.

And woe to those who suffer from diabetes, urinary infection, incontinence and senior citizens! While men may find a quick outlet by spitting forth their “indignation against your walls,” though un-civic, women would be totally at sea in the urban jungle.

While ruminating on this grim scenario, I found hope on Balmatta Road, half way between Jyothi Talkies and Vas Bakery, among the long rows of bus shelters for out-bound bus commuters, in an island of repose. There unobtrusively functions a toilet block for ladies and men. The men’s section has a series of urinals and within doors a toilet each in Indian (squat) and western-style commode (sit). I noticed a Re. 1 charge for use – apparently for the bigger job. The fee is a steal considering the relief its use would bring to the tormented bowels. Before I come to the extension of this idea of offering relief on the road for tortured bladders and bowels, a peep into the world of toilets is apt.

Ancient civilisations used toilets attached to simple flowing water sewage systems included those of the Indus Valley Civilization, e.g., Harappa and Mohenjo-daro which are located in present day India and Pakistan and also the Romans and Egyptians. Although a precursor to the modern flush toilet system was designed in 1596 by John Harington, such systems did not come into widespread use until the late 19th century. Thomas Crapper was one of the early maker of toilets in England.

Coming back to the situation in our city, Mangalore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) in its Master Plan 2020 recognises the challenges of providing mobility with a solemn statement. “The circulation system in any urban area is analogous to the blood circulation system of the human body”. It goes on to say that as on March 31, 2007, there were 1,786 buses with over four lakh commuters daily. If anything, these numbers are much higher today. Yet, the MUDA Master Plan is silent on providing toilet facilities to commuters or the general public at large.

While the Balmatta Road facility cited earlier is commendable and shows the way, more than providing such facilities at intermediate stands, they are an absolute necessity for city bus terminals such as Bondel, Kuloor, Morgan’s Gate and Mangaladevi Temple. These terminals need to be developed into streamlined stations with boarding platforms and, yes, toilet facilities. Since designing and building terminals would take long (Bejai new market building is a case in point), we should go for portable toilets in the interim.

The portable toilet is used on construction sites and at large outdoor gatherings where there are no other facilities. They are typically self contained units that are made to be easily moved to different locations as needed. Most portable toilets are unisex single units with privacy ensured by a simple lock on the door. The units are usually light weight and easily transported by a flatbed truck and loaded and unloaded by a small forklift. Many portable toilets are small moulded plastic or fiberglass portable rooms with a lockable door and a receptacle to catch waste in a chemically treated container. If used for an extended period of time, they have to be cleaned out and new chemicals put in the waste receptacle. For servicing multiple portable toilets tanker trucks, often called “Honey Trucks,” are equipped with large vacuums to evacuate the waste and replace the chemicals.

Finally, the Balmatta facility is by private initiative – perhaps against advertising rights. For toilets also, private parties can be roped in by offering to name the nearby chawk or circle as per the builder’s wish – as no one would want toilets to be named after them. It may be recalled that recently the Karnataka government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Infosys Foundation for the construction of 10,000 model toilets in select villages with water supply facility.