Thiruvananthapuram: It took the death of Silvamma, 65, who was mauled by stray dogs when she went to defecate at the beach at night to bring the practice of open defecation in coastal hamlets to the attention of the administration again.
The unfortunate victim had no toilet in her house and the public toilets here would only be open until evening. It took her death to keep it open round the clock. She had no space around her house to build a toilet like most of the 4,200-odd families here.
No wonder, dead jelly fish and human excreta dot the sands between Adimalathura and Pulluvila beaches. “People in Pulluvila have been taking to open defecation for long,” said S.L. Aji, a resident of Chappath. “Back in 1998, when I was studying in Leo XIII School here, people used to take a dump beside water bodies and swamps. Now with dwindling space and bouts of cholera they go out to the beaches.”
Public toilet construction got importance only when cholera cases increased around Pulluivila and Adimalathura in early 2000. The e-toilet was also first experimented with in the area. It was one of the first places in the capital to report Japanese encephalitis. Even the Swacch Bharath scheme could provide toilets to a negligible number of families here.
But many people, especially the elderly, switched back to old habits of defecation on the beach due to a ‘cleanliness issue’ in toilets and water scarcity in public toilets. Often municipal water would not reach areas from Vizhinjam to Poovar. There are no waste management facilities in the area and all drains open into the sea. “Our premises have no space to bury waste. So either children dump it in the sea or burn it on the beach. Menfolk drink alcohol late into the night and sleep on the beach and are susceptible to stray dog attacks,” said Sherly Russel, a resident.