It has been over two months since Kharka Bahadur Rai, 52 began constructing a pour flush toilet in Lalikharka, Doonglagang, Tsirang. He expects to complete it in another two months.

After the completion he said he would have a toilet better than his house, a thatched roof temporary hut. “It will immensely benefit the female members of my family,” he said. Without one, bathing happened either before dawn or after dusk.

Kharka Bahadur has spent at least Nu 15,000 so far in the construction. He works on other’s farm for cash income and what remains after buying ration, he spends on buying materials for the toilet.  Until now, the family was using a pit latrine, located about three minutes away from their house.

“My wife and daughter are happy that we’ll finally have a toilet and bathroom with water inside,” he said adding that building a toilet is an expensive affair for poor farmers like him.

About half an hour walk away, his neighbour Kisan Rai just completed constructing a pour flush toilet. Prior to this, his family used a toilet with facility but didn’t have a separate septic tank, which brought foul smell.

Kisan said for a flush toilet and bathroom, he spent at least Nu 100,000. It includes buying materials such as wood, cement, sand, stone and CGI sheets. “Transportation is expensive than the materials,” he said.

It was following several meetings and awareness by the health workers in the gewog that Kisan and Kharka Bahadur begun building pour flush toilets.

Tsirang is the ninth dzongkhag in the country on a mission to achieve 100 percent sanitation. Today, at least 98 percent of the households have access to basic sanitation. But only 54 percent of the households have pour flush toilets.

Of the total 3,865 households, 2,718 have pour flush toilets as of March this year. The number went up by 17 percent in May. According to records with the dzongkhag health sector, 79 households have no toilets and 470 have pit latrines.

Another 298 households have cemented pan toilets, 83 households have toilet pots made of tin. At least 28 households in Doonglagang gewog have eco-san toilets.  A total of 507 are under construction.

Dzongkhag health officer Tashi Dawa said only households that have been staying in the village for more than six months have been considered. He said that the move is to ensure every household has a pour flush toilet. “It is to improve sanitation and prevent communicable disease,” he said. “We’ll go on until 100 percent is achieved.”

The initiative began in August last year. Tashi Dawa said here local leaders and health workers have the most important role to play in convincing a farmer to build toilet. However, there are challenges such as people living on someone else’s land and are reluctant to built a toilet.

By November when the World Toilet Day is observed in Tsirang, at least few gewogs are expected to achieve 100 percent coverage. “Gewogs will be recognised for earlier completion,” the DHO said.

Tashi Dawa also added that there are few householdsthat may not be able to or afford to construct the toilets. The health sector is yet to discuss what could be done for them.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang