John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Our weekly dump of public-restroom news.
Welcome back to our weekly perusal of public-restroom news from around the world (past editions here):
TOILET SQUATTERS NEED A GOOD LAWYER, IN SOUTHERN INDIA
Nearly a decade ago, Shivji Singh and his wife were tapped to provide cleaning duties for a public restroom in Srirangapatna, a town about 75 miles southwest of Bangalore. But the Singhs went one step further: They moved into the facility and started raising a family in there.
Singh, his wife and four kids still live in the public bathroom, the Deccan Herald reports. Their lurking presence has not been without controversy. On Monday, a crowd of irate citizens staged a protest to the local authorities, complaining that they could not pee in peace with the Singhs standing right there. They called for their prompt eviction from the facilities.
The family says they were promised a space in the toilet by the contractor who appointed them as custodians. Nevertheless, officials have sworn that "action would be taken" against them, leaving the possibility that the Singhs will be homeless soon. In the meantime, it seems, an uncomfortable situation has turned almost unbearable, with anybody visiting the lavatory potentially coming face-to-face with a glowering, indignant Singh.
A MOST INTERESTING MAP OF BATHROOMS, IN MUMBAI
India's commode woes unspool like an infinite roll of unpleasantly sandy TP. The most common story, and probably the most serious, deals with the lack of places to relieve oneself. It's a fatal hygiene problem that's literally divided Indian society.
The latest journalistic plop in the bucket comes from The New York Times, which reports on one Harvard student's quest to map all the toilets in a Mumbai slum. Cheeta Camp, a "planned slum" of refugees forced off of land the government wanted for itself, was until recently an unknown scatological entity: Nobody living there seemed to know the location of all the group toilets. So public-health student James Potter and friends spent weeks doing detective work around the 'hood. They found a total of 38 functioning bathrooms for the neighborhood's 117,000 residents.
The shocking lack of loos is evident in the resulting Google map that Potter's team created. It shows the location and (non)working condition of each bathroom. Look at some of the pinned photos and you might not even recognize them as restrooms; it takes a kind of eagle eye to suss them out. Potter's notes are informative, too. One commode in Sector A, for instance, has been "demolished and rebuilt multiple times (but never opened). Ownership and motivation for demolition unclear." And another in Sector I has "extremely dirty surrounding, large informal defecation area nearby; significant defecation in toilet building outside stalls (generally done by children)."
TOILET TECH BREAKTHROUGH
Germophobes or just plain lazy people will delight in this new hands-free toilet-paper dispenser invented, perhaps predictably, by a company in Japan. For about $1,200, you can own a wooden, automatic TP dispenser that cuts off sections to your liking. Now, if only somebody could invent a machine that does the wiping for us....
Top photo courtesy of the highly creepy but useful Flickr photostream of BESTWAY64. Thanks for making these available, guy!