… Lack of facilities challenge sanitation milestone

Ugyen Dorji and Jigmi Wangdi

Yadi town which caters to seven gewogs in Mongar and commuters along the Mongar – Tashigang highway has been without basic amenities like public toilets for years now.

Without such a facility, visitors have to request the 15 shops and restaurants to relieve themselves or rush into the nearby bushes.

A villager from neighbouring Narang gewog, Dorji said that he buys a few items so that he can ask to use the washroom. “A few hoteliers allow it but most hoteliers don’t.”

Shopkeepers said since the town is a popular stopover with traffic over the years increasing manifold, the sewage tank gets full and she has to empty the tank two times a year which incurs costs.

“Yadi Centre School is also located near the town area, during the school season many people gather in town and public   buses also stop here, there is a need for proper toilets,” a resident said.

According to the Bhutan Living Standard Survey report (BLSS) 2022, almost all households (99.1 percent) in the country are using improved sanitation facilities. About 97 percent of households use flush toilets, 1 percent use ventilated improved pits and almost 1 percent use pit latrine with a slab.

Health ministry declared the country as an Open Defecation Free country in 2022 following the nationwide coverage of access to improved sanitation facilities. However, there are still issues.

Bhutan Toilet Organisation’s (BTO) Executive Director, Passang Tshering said that a challenge that arises is to advocate how to use the new toilets once it’s built in the rural areas.

“One issue in the urban areas is that we do not assess the situation in the slums where households don’t have individual toilets,” Passang Tshering said.  “During the last mile of the health ministry’s Community Led Total Solution project, BTO brought Japanese toilets (SATO technology) and made it easier for rural families to upgrade their pit latrines.”

“Toilets in many places are not up to standard. The more people use good toilets, the more they will appreciate it, which will help change their behaviour,” he said.  “We need to educate them.”

Meanwhile, Ngatsang gewog officials said that Yadi would get a public toilet in the 13th Plan built attached to the three-storey vegetable shed for the town.