Some communities say no to flush toilets, says De Lille

2013-06-05 16:33

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The City of Cape Town is trying to eradicate the bucket toilet system, but is facing resistance from some communities, Mayor Patricia de Lille has said.

“If we continue to receive resistance to our efforts in a community, the city will be obliged to move our focus to other areas where the initiatives are welcome,” she told reporters today.

Many residents were using a toilet seat on top of a 25-litre black bucket, which did not offer a sealed waste-disposal unit.

The city was offering portable flush toilets (PFTs) to residents in Khayelitsha as a safer and more hygienic method of waste disposal.

The PFTs consist of a toilet seat and a detachable 21l container underneath. Pressing on a lever below the seat flushes the waste into the sealed container to reduce odour and provide storage.

Each family was given two waste containers and the city serviced these containers three times a week.

In the past few weeks, around 600 PFTs were handed over in the Sir Lowry’s Pass area, and an additional 1 300 in other areas of the city.

This is in addition to the 11 307 toilets that were previously rolled out.

“A PFT provides the same privacy, dignity and safety as a normal full-flush toilet,” De Lille said.

“PFTs are allocated to a single household for use within that household and are therefore largely protected from vandalism.”

Journalists asked De Lille how such a toilet could offer dignity when people had to relieve themselves in front of their family because they lived in a small shack.

She said: “It can provide dignity and services to the people who choose to have them and that they don’t have to go outside and face the dangers of having to use an outside toilet.

“The privacy? People will decide how they deal with their privacy. We think that having to be inside your structure, it will vary from person to person.”

De Lille said large parts of the Boys Town and KTC informal settlements had resisted the PFTs.

“This time around, I can show you the proof of people who do not want the PFTs and they have signed for it that they don’t want it, giving the reasons for why they don’t want it.”

De Lille read out a few of the reasons people had written for not wanting the toilets. Some already had access to outside fixed flush toilets.

One resident said it was pointless going from “one bucket system to another bucket system”.

Another said she was comfortable with the bucket system, but wanted a 125-litre bucket.

Others felt the portable flush toilet seat was too small, or that their shack was too small for the toilet.

De Lille was asked why the city could not install more fixed toilets in informal settlements. She said it was impossible to give every person a flush toilet.

“The fact is that you cannot, because of the ground conditions. If you’ve got people who’ve invaded land in a high-flood area, you cannot go and drain there and put a flush toilet in there, because the architecture and engineering cannot allow for that,” she said.

There were also other valid reasons, depending on the area in question, she said.

De Lille called on the SA Human Rights Commission to help in educating residents about the benefits of PFTs, to help eradicate bucket toilets.

“I have already asked publicly on a radio station. Yes, I will be writing to them and I have made a public call already a month ago.

“We have to sit down with them and share with them the information and responses, and because it’s a human rights issue they must then decide how they want to take it forward.”

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