KATHMANDU, July 15: Rashmi Agrawal, a bachelor´s level student at Kathmandu University, avoids drinking any water before leaving home. She is one of many Kathmanduties who detest going to public toilets even when it is an emergency and the reason is lack of sanitary rest rooms.
“It´s next to impossible to find clean public toilets in Kathmandu, so I prefer to remain dehydrated the whole day instead of having to face the nauseous rest rooms” says Agrawal.
Tara Pudasaini, a street vendor at Ratna Park, feels that public toilets in Kathmandu are not women-friendly. “Most of the public toilets are not spacious and the passageway to the male and female toilets is the same, which makes us uncomfortable. At the same time, apart from lack of adequate soap and water, we can´t even find a dustbin to throw away sanitary pads” says Pudasaini.
Pedestrians in Kathmandu are compelled to use the ill-maintained rest rooms thanks to the low priority given by the government to public rest rooms. “We have to pay Rs 3 for urinating and Rs 5 for defecating and yet there isn´t any proper maintenance of the toilets. It´s a nightmare going to a public toilet but we don´t have any choice” says Roshan Dahal, a tempo driver. He says that most of the time he makes do with a bush or simply refrains from drinking water until he feels extreme dehydration.
However, Gopal Deula, who looks after the public toilet under the overhead bridge at Sundhara, says that toilet users are equally irresponsible for the unhygienic condition of public toilets. “Often we find them spitting tobacco all over the walls and floor. Not only that, people urinate and defecate outside the toilet pans” says Deula who was wearing a mask against the stench coming out of the toilets.
Executive Chief of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) Kedar Bahadur Adhikari admits that the public toilets are in a sorry state. However, he says efforts are being made to improve things. “Despite a water scarcity in Kathmandu, we have been providing as much water as we can to the toilets. To improve them further, we have handed over most public toilets to the private sector” he says.
Along with the sanitary issue, it is surprising that there are only 33 public toilets in Kathmandu city for a population of around 2 million. To meet this shortage, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) is planning to build more toilets.
“Due to the road expansion campaign, further construction of public toilets was halted but more public toilets are in the pipeline through coordination with the Department of Roads,” says Adhikari. He added that discussions are ongoing regarding appropriate locations for the toilets and the number of additional toilets needed.
Adhikari says KMC is in talks with stakeholders to invest in the construction of human friendly toilets. “Public toilets here don´t meet modern standards,” Adhikari says.
According to Deula at Sundhara, around 1,500 people use the public toilet there every day.