City’s ‘e-Toilets’ ((electronic/eco toilets) have Gone Totally ‘e-Waste’ (economically Waste?) using Tax-Payers Money being Flushed Down the Toilet since ALL of Them are ‘Out of Order’! And the best part is that these e-toilets were managed and operated by Mangaluru City Corporation-THAT FIGURES? So what good was it to spend Rs 6 lakh on each of these e-toilets, which are non-functional now- the same amount spent on these e-toilets could have been used to build regular toilets (with attendants in charge), and many commuters would have used the facilities without any hesitance.
Mangaluru: It was 11 July 2017, a day that history was made in Mangaluru and big noise was made in various media/publications about the introduction of the ‘e-Toilet’ -India’s first unmanned Electronic Public Toilet, which is portable, eco-friendly and hygienically maintained with a GPRS-enabled system, monitoring the toilet remotely. Eram Scientific Solutions who were the people behind this e-toilet had named this e-toilet ‘Delight’. Okay, that was good news for Kudla, and everyone welcomed these five new e-Toilets in Mangaluru with great delight and enthusiasm, joined by the then MCC Mayor, other MCC Officials, HPCL honchos, representatives of Eram Scientific Solutions, VIPs and media personnel. (Ref: When You Got To Go, NOW You Can Go! E-Toilets Open in City )
However, sadly a few years later as of today, 12 October 2023 none of these e-toilets installed in the City work. Even though the coastal city and educational hub attempted a hi-tech solution to an age-old problem, the introduction of these e-toilets– which are fully automated and even equipped with GPS to prevent misuse, seems like the project didn’t work for long. The E-toilet was conceived to address the issues associated with traditional public toilets– namely, non-availability of water, power, manpower, lack of maintenance and sustainability. (Ref: ‘e-Toilets’ Gone ‘e-Waste’! Two Out of Five Not Working Within One Month? ).
The serious dearth of personnel was another important pain point, often hindering sustained service to the users. Moreover, public toilets that are constructed with government funds are closed within a short time, due to lack of a sustainable income model. But unfortunately, it seems like the e-Toilet facilities didn’t click either. And with signs on these e-toilets urging citizens to keep the surrounding clean, went for a toss, where piles of garbage, filth was seen around these e-toilets. And many times you could see men peeing right behind these e-Toilets, who didn’t want to spend a few coins. One thing is for sure, people wanted everything free.
It was difficult to make people understand the importance of an e-toilet. They are so used to the idea of a mop and a cleaning lad and are used to the regular kind of toilets. They were not accustomed to such kind of fancy toilets, where you had to insert coins etc etc. Another challenge MCC had flunked was not finding appropriate locations to install these e-Toilets. These e-toilets should have been easily accessible and at places where it is very much desperately needed. (Ref: https://www.mangalorean.com/not-smart-building-a-e-toilet-first-and-then-finding-no-sewage-link/)
These e-toilets indeed had quite a few options, options to use less amount of water and a sensor-enabled system to conserve water and electricity usage. Despite all this, interrupted supply of electricity and water often affected their smooth functioning. And that’s what has happened now to these e-toilets here. All of them have stopped working, everything is in shambles. Looks like money flushed down the toilet. What Mangaluru needs in the future are simple and regular toilets which could be accessible by every common man and not just the rich and highly educated who have the time to insert money and play all the games.
Ever since these e-toilets were set up in Mangaluru, there had been no awareness about them. Many didn’t even know what these blue kiosks were for. The foremost challenge was to make people understand the e-toilet, which wasn’t done by the MCC or the e-toilet company. Since this e-toilet is completely automated, technology phobia was evident in the early stages of the initiative, but unless these e-toilets never received much media hype and government support, the initial reluctance turned out to be just curiosity.
Poor maintenance has caused the e-toilets of the Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) to become unhygienic, which cannot be used by the public. While the MCC opened 12 e-toilets at various locations in the city, of which two are located very close to the city corporation office at Lalbagh, and have been neglected due to technical issues. MCC couldn’t even maintain and keep at least these two e-toilets near their building is total ignorance and negligence.
According to a MCC official, these e-toilets were installed in the city a few years ago through CSR funds, and the Mangaluru Smart City Limited (MSCL). Initially, the agency that installed the e-toilets was maintaining the units. Recently, the agency stopped the maintenance of e-toilets, which were functioning with software. Since the city corporation does not have technical experts to maintain the software, the e-toilets are defunct. The city corporation engineers could not decode the software of the e-toilets, he added.
Another fun part was that many people didn’t know how to use these e-toilets, since they have been used to regular toilets or have been going for nature’s call in the open air. When most people avoid using public toilets due to their bad conditions, this technology should have changed the scenario of public sanitation here, but it never happened, as we see now. e-Toilets alone cannot fix the sanitation problem, but authorities should come up with a better system to handle the sanitation issue. The other point is that no one wants to dirty their hands. -this field is often looked down upon by people and no one wants to work extensively here. Someone who wants to do a similar project needs to be passionate about what he/she is doing.
The lack of toilets has indeed resulted in defecation in open places, which has created a major sanitary problem. With increased awareness among the people, the government and several organizations should come up with public urinals and toilets in various areas. However, most of these public toilets have not been able to live up to the hygienic standards required in a urinal. Most of these toilets remain out of use. People also hesitate to use these toilets because they are very dirty and unhygienic. Hence, new and innovative solutions are required for the betterment of these public toilets.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that MCC Mayor Sudhir Shetty Kannur has assured that the issue will be brought to the notice of officials, and he will discuss it with officials of the MCC and MSCL soon, to find a solution to the issue. ” We have understood that e-toilets could not be maintained due to software issues. We will ensure that the e-toilets are made functional again. If required, tenders will be invited to hand over the responsibility of maintaining the e-toilets to a suitable agency,” said the mayor. Hope he will keep up his assurance and do the needful in restoring these defunct e-toilets.
Installation of these e-toilets was indeed an effective step towards the creation of urban sanitation infrastructure to create a better quality of life for citizens and tourists. The basic concept of e-toilet offered a full cycle approach to creating sustainable sanitation by combining mechanical, electronic and web-mobile technologies for remote monitoring of the entry, usage, exit, cleaning and sterilization. The portable e-toilets also generated revenue. Sadly, due to the negligence and carelessness of MCC, these e-toilets remain unused. In future, to cater to the toilet needs of the public, I think the ‘common toilet’ will surely benefit the ‘common man’.