"Pedestrians, Rickshaw pullers, day labourers and other men prefer urinating in the open. Footpaths and corner of buildings top the list preference. They often avoid these filthy toilets," said Sabur, a floating food seller
Amid the hustle and bustle of cars, vans and rickshaws, the Moghbazar intersection seems like an area doomed to remain congested forever. If your destination is Banglamotor or any place nearby, to avoid the jam, you may take a walk along the footpath. This may bring to your notice another form of hazard – though you will not be able to see it since it will only affect your sense of smell. You will not miss the odour that will greet you at the very outset – it is the foul whiff of urine.
Men can go to such length that your walkway may seem like a test for you to dodge puddles. Open urination is perhaps their prerogative.
To be extra-cautious one may carry a number of handkerchiefs or wads of tissue papers to be at the ready to cover one's nostrils. Still your walk would be punctuated by hops and jumps, if you really want to reach your destination without getting sullied by the foul liquid on your walkway.
There are 67 public toilets available in the city – though not enough for Dhaka. One of which is in Moghbazar, yet why are men urinating in the footpath is a question that may continue to take a toll on our cognitive faculty.
The small hut-like toilet that exists in the Moghbazar circle is always found locked. Kamaluddin, a rickshaw puller, while resting beside the road nonchalantly, says, "It is always closed. We cannot use it in need."
A 2017 study by ActionAid Bangladesh, in association with UK Aid states that more than 90 per cent of public toilets in the city are unusable. While 91.5 percent were reported unhygienic, 96 per cent of these toilets were unsafe, and 54 per cent of them lacked sanitation facilities. Therefore, the mega city simply smells bad, making navigation a painful experience in many places, including important places where five star hotels are located.
The scenario in Banglamotor is totally different. Its refurbished public toilet presents is well-maintained. Day labourers who work at Eskaton Garden regularly use it. One such labourer Maruful says, "Though it costs around Tk5 for urination and defecation, this toilet is good to use." He and his fellows regularly uses the toilet.
Public toilet in the Newmarket area is always teeming with people and is useable, though not well maintained. Anwar Sani, a hawker, says, "It is very difficult to use the public toilet at Newmarket, even the toilet inside the markets is equally unclean."
But public toilet for women by BHUMIJO supported by Brac at Gawsia is very well maintained. It is clean, well-furnished, additionally, it smells good. This initiative is contributing to saving women from the risk of urinary tract infection.
The story of dirty toilets does not stop at Newmarket though. Public toilets in National Mosque and Bangabandhu Stadium, Notun Bazar intersection, and Jatrabari are also not in the state of use.
Sabur, a floating food seller around Badda and Notun Bazar area says, "Pedestrians, Rickshaw pullers, day labourers and other men prefer urinating in the open. Footpaths and corner of buildings top the list preference. They often avoid these filthy toilets. Moreover, Notun Bazar's public toilet is often seen under lock and key. So, we have no other place for urination rather than open spaces."
Women suffer the most as none of these public toilets are suitable for them to use. They try to avoid using public toilets. What do they do then?
Ambia Khatun, a day labourer at Notun Bazar area says, "I try not to use toilet unless in an extreme need. And I, therefore, drink less water than my body needs."
Surprisingly, public toilet for both men and women at Gabtoli Bus Terminal, one of the busiest nodes in the city, is unusally clean, squeaky clean to be precise. Additionally, it comes with standard facilities – flush, bin, sanitary napkin dispensers, basin with mirrors, electric dryers etc. The toilets are maintained by professional crew and are under surveillance.
Though most public toilets in Dhaka are not up to the standard, Gabtoli's is an exemplary one. Toilets in other areas throughout the city should take this one as model.