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In Focus

Acute Paucity of Toilets, Potable Water

Interestingly, while the Forest Department is yet expected to identify and provide a place for the construction of toilets for tourists after a year of the Island receiving power and 72 years of Independence, there is a distinct paucity of potable water and toilets for tourists on the island.

There is a distinct paucity of potable water and toilets for tourists on the island

The ones available are in a single block comprising toilets for men and women at the base of the island, and then a few more in another block, on top of the island, inside the cave area. So, for all practical purposes, today, only about 8 persons can avail a toilet at any point of time leaving the rest waiting for their turn. And, the plans to construct more toilets have been floating for a very long time. Despite the presence of funds, it’s the lack of initiative that has stalled the construction of toilets - a basic human need - on the island.

Also, there is no potable water facility for tourists on the entire island despite an RO filtration plant being active after the initiation of power supply to Elephanta but available only for locals. “I am always forced to buy bottled water at rates beyond printed MRP because the islanders insist that they have to ‘transport the water all the way from Mumbai’,” says Elephanta regular and Pune resident Lyla Goel. “Earlier, I would pay off the extra out of sheer pity for the locals,” she says. “This time around, when I visited Elephanta Island last, the 24x7 power has almost all locals engaged with their mobile phones constantly yet overcharged me for water which, I feel strongly, should be made available for free by the government,” added the designer.

Without any option to avail potable water for free, tourists are left with little option but buy bottled water at exorbitant rates charged indiscriminately. “It feels like a loot on the island. Everything is overcharged and there is no process to complain or put things in place,” says Mr Chandiramani.

The times have changed but some things simply don’t. Elephanta Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site registering 20 lakh footfalls annually and set to receive more following the installation of India’s longest ropeway, now receives power around the clock yet doesn’t have a single doctor on the entire island; no facility for formal education beyond Standard 10th and absolutely no crisis management process in place. And, Elephanta Island is located barely 10 kms away from India’s financial capital…Mumbai!

This report has been prepared for DraftCraft International’s Flagship Initiative, The Elephanta Island Project to research, analyse and determine the rights and liabilities of Islanders, local and foreign tourists vis-a-vis the responsibility of the State towards all stakeholders and natural resources while upholding the law of the land and ensuring the protection of environment that tops the list of priorities. The initiative examines laws and policies regarding islands, sea transport, privacy, women’s rights, health, protection of the environment and rights and liabilities of tourists guaranteed to all by the State in context of the Right To Equality, Freedoms, The Right to Life and Global Conventions to which India is a signatory.