KATHMANDU, Feb 13: Fifty-year-old Narayan Kumar Shrestha, a local fruit vendor of New Road, is often asked the same question repeatedly: "Is there a toilet around ?"
Without a second thought, he gives a standard response saying, "Go to Bishal Bazar which is nearby or walk up to the metropolitan city office and pay Rs 2 for the service.” He further informs about the poor state of public toilets that are available in the vicinity.
Parwati Budhathoki, 30, who sells ornaments at Basantapur Durbar Square, is also not happy with the state of public toilets. "The public toilets lack basic amenities such as soap, trash bin, tap water which are very necessary for women, especially during their menstruation cycle," said Budhathoki.
Talking about public toilet does not excite another street vendor, Raju Karki, at Ratnapark either. Karki believes in resistance rather than answering the nature's call. “We have no choice. We don't see a clean toilet anywhere. Yes, there are few toilets but they are so filthy that they cannot be used by anyone. Even mobile toilets do not come around anymore,” he said, adding, “If you go to public toilets here, you may want to be careful of possible health hazards.”
Currently, there are 32 public toilets operating in the valley, and an improved, disabled-friendly toilet is under construction at Ratnapark area, according to Kathmandu Metropolitan City officials. Mobile toilets are very rare to spot though.
“However, there are future plans of improving the condition of the existing public toilets", says Rabin Man Shrestha, chief of the Environment Section of Kathmandu Metropolitan City and director of Sustainable Solid Management Project.
According to the Ministry of Finance, the government has allocated 2.1 percent (Rs 22 billion) of its total budget of Rs 1.05 trillion for drinking and sanitation for the fiscal year 2016/17, which is a significant increase from previous years. The government had spent only 1.85 percent (Rs 9.8 billion) and 1.75 percent (Rs 12.3 billion) during the fiscal years 2014/15 and 2015/16 respectively.
Although the government is keen on improving services related to water and sanitation by increasing the budget, effective utilization of resources is needed for the implementation of the budget, say the concerned officials.