Addressing a critical issue

It is not often that newspapers write editorials on toilets. But the way the issue keeps resurfacing is an embarrassment and some urgent attention is required. For after all, the lack of toilets and the deplorable state of our toilets are reflecting badly on our contemporary culture of hygiene and civic sense.

It is normal for the average Bhutanese to not be worried about no toilets when they are on the road. But that is because we never had a choice. A scanty bush, enough to just cover the face or the nether regions will do. Some don’t even need a bush and are brave enough to go in the open.

The issue is about the tourists, the US dollar paying tourists, not having a place to relieve themselves when nature calls. Many have complained and will continue to do so if we don’t improve our toilets.

Not many tourists who complained will come back to see if Bhutanese toilets have improved, but one common feedback most tourists leave behind is on the lack of an important amenity. Besides the risk of falling down a hill or leeches grabbing on, many wouldn’t dare to relieve themselves in the open as it is not in their culture.

Let’s not take the chance of our reputation being harmed by the state of our toilets when tourists talk to other potential tourists about their visit to Bhutan.

What is alarming is that the issue is not new. It has been raised several times in the past but surprisingly, not much has been done. There is a plan to develop 18 restrooms throughout the country by 2018. It may be two years of waiting, but thankfully, there is something planned.

But it would be unreasonable for the tourism industry to expect the government to build toilets for tourists along the road. A lot could be done if they take some ownership and contribute to a facility that they are continuously feeling pressed for.

Building toilets along the highway may be very expensive for a poor country, but it is a necessity today, especially with tourism being our bread and butter.

Unlike the tourists, the public are not really complaining, but that doesn’t mean they are happy. If a small corner or a dark alley is good enough for a toilet, it is not because of choice. It is the lack of facilities.

Forget the highways, right here in the capital city of Bhutan, the lack of public toilets is a constant problem, even for Bhutanese citizens.

During huge gatherings, like Wang ceremonies, the lack of toilets becomes a big problem. Besides our most sacred memorial Choeten there is a foul smelling area. Dzongs and monasteries that are most visited, both by tourists and locals alike should get the priority if ever there is a plan. The sanctity of the place could be defiled when hundreds of people visit them, say on an auspicious day, and there are no toilets.

At the same time, a lot also depends on the how public facilities are used or misused. A visit to a public toilet is enough to tell that much needs to be done in terms of education and awareness. Many public toilets have reminders to flush after use. We need reminders and warnings not to use sticks and stones, spit doma in the basins, squat on western pots, vandalize the equipment, among others. Much needs to be done.

There is also a need for us to accord more priority to those taking care of our toilets by providing them with more incentives, perhaps by paying them an income and also letting them keep their earnings from toilet uses. Such an investment might be smarter than endlessly experimenting on the expressway.

2 replies
  1. MIGNIEN
    MIGNIEN says:

    I certainly start readers with surprise ; but the very title of this article , for youths , would be “a cog problem ” said in their crude language .
    It is important for the state budget that the 3 rd jewel ( tourism) does not going to drop down . Every complaints of occidental tourists must be examined . In particular the lack of amenities along the highway used by tourist coaches . When existing ( very few ) their absolute filthy , the theft of taps and other injuries must be in good repair. .
    A suggestion to solve that problem . Any feast organizer, in France , by law , must take hygienic measures to collect the releases of natural human necessities . So they hire individual chemical toilet boxes ; in each box , underneath the toilet seat , there is a tank containing a chimical liquid which destroy all bacteries of the human dejections and bad smells. A big tank can be installed which is filled with the rain from the roof .
    There need a roof to protect tourists from the rain .
    Each day , accordind the contract with the hygienic firm , a special truck come and drain the dirty liquid and replace it with a fresh one . The truck go to a special unit for a destroy process . Te only necessity is to build a Platform in a very horizontal position in armed cement to support the box
    I think it is rapidly feasible , les expensive than buiding room in cement .
    The only problem is to find a place along the road. It a land problem . It a GVT problem
    The other important problem is to find funds through generous donators ! World bank may be?
    And to avoid theft , destruction and breakage by some buthanese themselves , the place with the box must be protected and closed by a surrounding wire fence very solid . Only yhe TCB guides have the key of the gate ; those boxes are reserved to the TCB occidental tourists. It is forbidden to the inhabitants or the regional tourists non accompanied with a TCB guide . It would be a good idea to place cameras if front of the gate to caught prosecutors on the fact .
    The challenge worth to avoid the bad reputation of Bhutan concerning cleanless
    I hope , sir P.M. chairman of TCB , you will hear the complaints of occidental tourists . For the bebenefit of the budget of the kingdom when tourist will come back .
    All the best for Bhutan

    jcmignien@orange.fr

  2. irfan
    irfan says:

    Our homes can’t be considered clean without a clean toilet or washroom. But whenever a function or some festival gathering happens at our home; it becomes a challenge to keep the washroom clean with so many of the guests using it. Not many of us like the job of cleaning our own washroom and we always prefer to pay others to clean it for us. So we can easily imagine the situation with our public toilets whether it’s located in our cities or on the highways.

    It’s possible to have washroom in a tourist bus, but not in a smaller tourist van or car. It’s also possible to have highly portable as well as folding toilet designed so that it can be carried as luggage in our long highway trips. That can be useful for both foreign tourists and the Bhutanese people. But it’s true that a toilet is not only about providing some privacy during the act. A toilet or washroom has to be well defined for its construction, use and maintenance.

    If an editorial on public toilet facilities is a rare occasion, commenting on that is an equally uncommon experience. When it comes to toilets along our highways or within our cities, may be it’s time to think new in terms of washroom design for easy and innovative maintenance of the same. If maintenance efforts can be minimised even at a higher cost of operation, a model for public toilets can be developed. We need to address it at the very cause of what makes our public toilets dirty. To come up with a new design will be one huge challenge; but it can solve the problem.

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