Demonstrating Best Practices for Operations and Maintenance of Community and Public Toilets in Chennai


An assessment of 62 out of 800+ Community and Public toilets (CT/PTs) in Chennai highlighted the need for renovations, improved facilities for women, increased accessibility for elderly and disabled individuals,
and enhanced cleanliness and hygiene. The Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN) and Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) sought assistance from Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme (TNUSSP) to initiate a two-year demonstration of operations and maintenance (O&M) in nine CT/PTs in Chennai, to showcase sustainable solutions for service provision.

The objective of the project is to:
● demonstrate service models for CT/PT O&M with inclusive facilities and free toilet access for all users, while ensuring safe and hygienic conditions, effective waste management systems, and revenue generation alternatives for long-term financial sustainability.
● recommend scalable service models by GCC for widespread implementation and impact across the 800+ CT/PTs in Chennai.

The CT/PTs for demonstration were selected based on location, footfall, and UGSS/OSS connections. Three service models were proposed, including private enterprise, women self-help groups/federations, and individual entrepreneurs. Each service provider had their own O&M methods. Uniform record maintenance, Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for monitoring and grievance redressal mechanisms were introduced. Innovative on-site treatment – Multi-user Reinvented Toilet (MURT) technology was installed for recycling used water. Monthly progress updates are shared with GCC and GoTN.

Reflections/Key Learnings:
The initiative ensured availability of staff during functional hours, round-the-clock access to five out of nine toilets, SLAs adherence, and a grievance redressal mechanism. These efforts saw a 360% increase in 104 users of CT/PTs and 43% increase in female users. Over 95% users reported toilet cleanliness. However, challenges such as differing priorities among stakeholders, operational difficulties, finding suitable service providers, and addressing user behaviour issues must be addressed through behaviour change campaigns and community engagement for sustainability.

Discussion to inform practice:
Sustainability, replicability, and scaling-up of improved services in CT/PTs are crucial for wider benefits. Scaling SHG and individual entrepreneur models require skill training, resources, and support, while private companies need sufficient incentives to meet their revenue needs. Clean and hygienic toilets attract hesitant users, leading to increased usage, but adequate staffing and revenue sources are essential for efficient O&M. Advertisements and other potential revenue sources are being explored.
Future focus is aimed at enhancing service provider capacity, modifying user behaviour, and community engagement, improved management, and potential revenue from donations and CSR funds.