Kathmanduites call for more effective sanitation campaign
By Arpana Adhikari
Kathmandu, Jan. 19: Human faeces on the pavements and streets of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) are now a common sight if you are a person who loves to go for morning walks. It is almost comical to say that some streets of the KMC, the heart of the country’s capital, were covered with human poop, said Lina Pradhan of Old Baneshwar, looking at the pavement filled with human faeces at the corridor of the Setopul road section.
“I have sighted the similar scene around the road sections of the Ratopul, Kalopul, Gaushala and Chabahil areas,” she said.
More surprising is that human poop could be sighted sometimes even on the pavement near the New Road Gate, the busiest road of the city, said Gita Sapkota of Siphal.
“I have seen many tourists, who walk through this road section to visit Basantapur, one of the popular tourist sites of this cultural city, making repulsive faces seeing poops in the pavements. This is really a shameful state when the country is preparing to celebrate 2020 as the Visit Nepal Year,” Sapkota added.
“Walking through the overhead bridges of Kathmandu is more difficult because there are high chances that you step on human poop,” said Akriti Baral of Koteshwar.
“Is this because the sanitation not in a priority of the government? The situation is the part of a broader failure of the city office to provide basic needs to its citizens,” said Sapkota.
Access to bathroom is a basic right of the people and availability of sanitation facilities like toilets is a minimum requirement in a metropolitan city like Kathmandu. However, a study shows that there is only one public toilet for 46,000 Kathmanduites, compelling many homeless and others to defecate by the side of the streets.
In 2011, Nepal announced its national goal of making the country Open Defecation Free (ODF) zone by 2017. As a part of this movement over 50 per cent districts were already declared ODF areas, including several of far-flung villages. However, the country’s capital is yet to get this coveted status.
When it comes to achieving the target of ODF, Kathmandu district has made a very slow progress, said Prakash Amatya, Technical Advisor of Guthi, an NGO working in the field of drinking water and sanitation.
Kathmandu already had private toilet coverage of 98-99 per cent. However, there is still a severe lack of public toilets in the city, he added.
In case of a person experiencing nature’s call while walking on the streets of the city, the choices for her/him are either to visit some filthy public restrooms, with no water or in open public places. “Moreover, majority of the public toilets of KMC pose health risks and are not women and disabled-friendly.”
During his election campaign in 2017, KMC Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya had made an ambitious commitment of building 200 public toilets in the city, but he fell short on his tall pledges, added Amatya.
Along with the rising influx of people in the Kathmandu, the available 85 public latrines for a city was woefully insufficient, said Amatya. “Poop on the streets has obvious cause-- lack of access to public restrooms.”
Out of the 85 public latrines in the KMC, 18 are the one operated by the city office. But only four of them were in function, he added.
Considering the inconvenience faced by the denizens, the office has been working on a plan to build smart public toilets in the busy areas of the city, said Hari Kumar Shrestha, chief of the Environment Department at KMC.
“A study is being carried out to identify the land, where we can build new public toilets. A public-private partnership is needed to meet the sanitation demands of the growing city population. We are also planning to renovate the existing ones,” he added.
Amatya claimed that there was no specific body to look after the issue of the city. There was no clarity that which of these bodies-- the Revenue Department, Public Private Partnership Unit (PPU) or Environment Department of the KMC-- were responsible for building public toilets.
“There should be proper guidelines and regulations to operate public toilets under public and private entities,” said Amatya.
“It is worth considering the idea of building public toilets in the busy areas providing special privilege for the underprivileged people like homeless, children, elderly and disabled people so that one would never have to use the street to defecate,” he added.