Communal toilets in urban poverty pockets - A WaterAid report

This report published by WaterAid describes the findings of the study conducted in seven poverty pockets in Bhopal to look at patterns of use of communal latrine facilities. Much has been invested in building communal and public toilets and more resources are likely to continue to support this form of sanitation in dense urban areas in India.

However, there is no evidence available that is needed to quantify their potential contribution to reducing open defecation and faecal pollution in these environments, and identify those design features and management factors that encourage the highest usage rates by all household members. Also there is no information available on the impact of age and gender related differences in patterns of use.This exploratory study was carried out in seven poverty pockets in Bhopal to look at patterns of use of communal latrine facilities. Approximately 50 households were selected from each of the poverty pockets using a ‘random walk’ procedure. Locations of facilities and households were recorded using a handheld GPS and these data were used to calculate a proxy indicator of the straight line distance between houses and the nearest communal latrine facility.

The communal facilities were found to provide for the usual domestic needs of a sizeable minority of poverty pocket residents, though the extent to which facilities were used varied between settlements. Almost all users lived near the vicinity of the facilities and none of the facilities studied served a transient population. At all facilities, the number of visits by males was more than double that by females.

Most users interviewed at latrine facilities (65%) said they were satisfied with the condition of the latrines with 6% reporting they were very satisfied and 29% reporting that they were not satisfied. There were no gender differences in satisfaction with latrine facilities. The features that were most liked about the latrine facilities were convenience (38%), privacy (23%) and protection from animals (13%). The most disliked features were dirt and smell (64%), queue (19%) and lack of water (11%).

Almost all users of communal latrines (95%) paid a fee to use them. Reported fees range from 2 to 90 INR with a median fee of 25 INR. Communal latrines differed in their facilities, conditions, management and operating characteristics, and rates of usage. Reported usage rates among non-latrine-owning households ranged from 15% to 100%.

Although the communal latrines were used by many households lacking their own latrines, for over half of these households open defecation continued to be their usual practice. Determinants of communal facility usage among households without a latrine were access and convenience (distance and opening hours), age, cleanliness/upkeep and cost. The ratio of male to female users was 2:1 across all facilities for both adults and children.

The report ends by identifying the need to conduct further in-depth qualitative work to better understand the environmental factors, attitudes and beliefs that determine choice of defecation place and to explore i) what would make the communal facility attractive as a defecation place and ii) what would make open defecation intolerable.

Download the briefing note here and the abstract of the paper published on this study in the journal Tropical Medicine and International Health, here

Download the complete report here