Monday, July 22, 2024
CivicsPublic Opinion

The Scarcity of Public Restrooms

Public restrooms are a vital component of urban infrastructure. It is a necessity for promoting and upholding the fundamental human right to access sanitation facilities. As per the list provided by Kathmandu Metropolitan City, only a total of 52 public restrooms are available in Kathmandu City. Taking into account the dense population of the city, the number of toilets is not enough. It is disheartening that the scarcity of public restrooms in such a populous city has become a matter of huge concern for the public. According to the National Census 2021, the population of Kathmandu has surged to a total of 2,041,587 residents. These numbers suggest that each public restroom must accommodate approximately 39,261 individuals at a time. This falls significantly below the guidelines established by the World Health Organization.

The History of Public Toilet in Nepal

The first toilet relic was discovered in Hanuman Dhoka. This is estimated to have been built during the time of Pratap Malla. However, it took nearly four centuries for every Nepali household to have access to a toilet. In 1980, merely 2% of Nepali households had access to toilets. Fast forward to 2018, and the figure had surged to 97%. This significantly enhanced hygiene and sanitation, resulting in a decline in gastric infections, typhoid, and other illnesses, particularly among children. While this was a significant milestone, it remained an incomplete triumph. Despite Nepal being recently declared open defecation-free, many individuals still resort to outdoor defecation. The presence of well-functioning toilets is crucial to fully realizing the goal of an open-defecation-free nation and achieving proper sanitation.

Problems Faced by the Public

Regrettably, even the existing restrooms are lacking in proper equipment and hygiene standards. The function of these restrooms is merely to respond to emergency calls. They do not guarantee a sanitary environment. These facilities need more water supply, infrequent cleaning, and more maintenance and repairs to remain operational. As the population keeps increasing, it becomes imperative to prioritize the creation of clean and habitable places for restroom facilities.

Similarly, there is a need for more gender-sensitive and disability-friendly restroom facilities in public spaces. Public and private restrooms in Nepal typically overlook the specific needs of various individuals, including transgender individuals, persons with disabilities, and new mothers. These facilities normally do not provide the fundamental amenities required by default to accommodate these diverse needs. This is why the presence of all-inclusive toilets is a must. Proper restroom infrastructure, including suitable commodes or pans, consistent water supply, soap, and covered waste bins, among other essentials, is crucial.

Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office

The Efforts of Kathmandu Metropolitan City

Awareness is growing, and government initiatives have made significant improvements over time. Nonetheless, it is essential to maintain ongoing efforts to address the issue of the scarcity of public restrooms. Following his election, The Mayor of Kathmandu, Balendra Shah, declared plans for the Metropolitan City to construct a minimum of 10 new public toilets. The design of these toilets would serve the requirements of men, women, LGBT individuals, and people with disabilities.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City had also asked businesses in the city to register for letting their facilities be used as public toilets. This decision was taken with the understanding that if businesses like restaurants could make their restrooms accessible to the public, it could potentially resolve the scarcity of public restrooms in the city. Following this request, numerous restaurants, hotels, and private businesses have come forward, pledging to assist the public by offering their restrooms for public use. As citizens, we can only hope that a greater number of well-equipped, fully inclusive, and thoroughly sanitized restrooms will be accessible to the public in the future. 

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