ISLAMABAD: With the civic authorities, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration and local Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chapter seemingly uninterested in providing hygienic toilet facilities for participants of the Azadi March, environmentalists have warned that open defecation in the heart of the city could lead to the spread of diseases, including polio.
Staff and officials of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) and the ICT administration are busy levelling and preparing the ground for the gathering, but there are no toilet arrangements at the venue.
“The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has given the administration directives to facilitate the participants of the Azadi March by providing them basic human needs. This includes food and restrooms,” JUI-F spokesperson Mufti Shafiur Rehman said.
“We have told the ICT administration to establish toilets on the south side of Kashmir Highway and they are doing it,” he added.
Like the officials, a team from the JUI-F was also present at the venue in H-9. They observed that there were two natural streams in the area, including Nullah Leh coming from the Margalla Hills towards Rawalpindi, and one of the local JUI-F leaders also noted that there was an open area on one side of the ground that would suffice for participants’ sanitary needs.
The JUI-F’s application for the Azadi March to the IHC had said that around 6,000 toilets would be required for participants.
However, senior MCI officials told Dawn it was not their responsibility to establish these facilities, and the ICT administration also is not involved.
“Open defecation and direct outflow in natural water streams could lead to insanitary conditions,” WaterAid Head of Policy and Advocacy Nadeem Ahmed said.
Mr Ahmed expressed the fear that such conditions could lead to the spread of communicable diseases.
“This does not mean there is a confirm chance, but even polio could spread like this,” he said.
Meanwhile, the authorities have agreed to provide march participants with water. MCI water directorate officials met with local JUI-F leaders, as they had demanded a large quantity of water for ablution and other purposes.
“There are two tubewells in the area and participants will be provided water from there, while the other option, to supply water through tankers, was being explored,” an MCI official said.
However, the MCI is concerned about the supply of water to local residents if the Azadi March is prolonged, as most of the water tankers are out of order and only 10 to 12 are operational.
Published in Dawn, 30 October 2019