Urgent Run campaign to improve state of public toilets

Bhutan Toilet Organisation’s 120 members across the country will clean and maintain all public toilets

Volunteer: In another two weeks, Bhutan Toilet Organisation would have thoroughly cleaned and maintained all urban public toilets across the country.

Bhutan Toilet Organisation (BTO), an informal association of volunteers, last week received an official approval from health minister Tandin Wangchuk in its initiative to make toilets in the country user friendly.

An 18-day campaign called ‘Bhutan Urgent Run’ began on November 1 and will end on November 19 coinciding with the World Toilet Day.

The letter from lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk states that the ministry fully appreciates such initiatives and extended gratitude to the volunteers.

He urged everyone, including dzongkhag administrations, municipal authorities, schools, institutions, business communities, dratshangs and rabdeys alike to support the initiative and render all possible support to make the event successful.

“Please kindly extend all your cooperation to the volunteers and members of BTO on this humongous task to clean up public toilets in the country,” the letter stated.

For the campaign, BTO’s 120 members spread across the country except for Haa will identify public toilets in each dzongkhag, assess the problems and find solutions locally. In dzongkhags without public toilets such as Tsirang, toilets of either the dratshang or monasteries will be cleaned.

BTO’s founder, Passang Tshering said the goal of the campaign is to make clean public toilet accessible.  As directed by the health minister, members of the organisation will work with dzongkhag municipality, communities and schools to clean the toilet, mend the damages with plumbing if required, repaint the walls, and furnish toilets with basic necessities like a bucket, a jug, toilet brush and dustbin among others.

“However, if the damages are major then we could forward the issue to the municipality,” he said.

Urgent Run is a global event organized by World Toilet Organization (WTO). BTO was asked to join WTO in observing the world toilet day this year.

On the organization’s Facebook page, members from across the country have been sharing pictures of public toilets that are out of order, blocked or too dirty to be used.

For instance the ‘pay and use’ public toilet at Gyalpoishing remains locked most of the time but much of its interiors are broken and damaged.  Trongsa, Bumthang and Samtse’s public toilet are also in a bad condition with no water, broken equipment and toilet pots covered in defecation.

Passang Tshering said through BTO members, it was known that public toilets across the country are in similar state. While there are no adequate numbers of toilets in proportion to the population of the place, those existing toilets are built in wrong locations, away from busy places.

“We saw most of the public toilets are unusable, or locked. The facilities are damaged, including the doors,” he said adding that BTO strives to make people think of toilet differently and urge people to move out the notion of toilet being ‘dirty place.’

Although the campaign has zero funding arranged as of now, members are positive that business establishments in the dzongkhag and communities would support them to cover the campaign costs.

Meanwhile, before the world toilet day, BTO in partnership with the municipality and local communities plans to adopt all existing public toilets in municipal areas, make it usable and available at all times and make the users accountable.

Nirmala Pokhrel

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