Pokhara, the second-largest city in Nepal, is the capital of Gandaki. Occupying an area of 434.24 square kilometers, the total population of Pokhara Metropolitan City is four lakh fourteen thousand one hundred and fifty-nine. The panoramic view of the mountains from Pokhara, the Seti River flowing through the city, and the calm lakes are enough to attract tourists from all over the world. Thousands of tourists visit Pokhara, the best city in Nepal in terms of tourism. With the construction of an international airport, the pressure of tourists in Pokhara is sure to increase in the coming days. According to the environment department of Pokhara Metropolitian City office there are total 41 public toilet location inside PMC where the total population of PMC is 4,14,149 which means the ratio of population of PMC and public toilets in PMC is 10101.2:1. In the present, due to the lack of adequate public toilet facility, tourists, businessmen as well as the general public who commute to Pokhara daily have been severely affected. Pokhara being a tourism hotspot of Nepal seriously needs to build more public toilets.
In today’s world public space for people is one of the crucial components of ‘Livable Cities’. Using a public space is the right of people and people need public spaces even more during the time of disasters. A poorly managed toilet can be a transmission factor of many infectious diseases that can even threaten human existence. Going out is much difficult for women as they are vulnerable to urinary tract infection (UTI) than men. ‘Holding on’ is difficult for those women who are on their period, are pregnant and new mothers. Even the people with different other health issues find it difficult to ‘hold on’ as they need toilets more often. Often we see public toilets as a matter of Public health and hygiene only but the unavailability of the public toilet can hinder the overall development process as it is also a part of public service delivery, basic human right, a matter of mobility and inclusiveness, factor for attracting tourist and a base for a sustainable city.
Public toilets are not only an important part of a livable city but also the right of every citizen. Article 30 of the Constitution of Nepal 2072 provides for the right of every citizen to live in a clean and healthy environment while Article 35 provides for the right of every citizen to have access to clean drinking water and sanitation but even today, the citizens are deprived of such rights provided by the constitution, an example of which is the lack of public toilets in Pokhara. Unavailability of public toilets stopped them from going out as often as they would like. It results in hindering the social participation of people.
Nepal is undergoing a devolution and decentralization process, shifting responsibilities and resource and local governments have excessive powers and responsibilities. The Local Government Operation Act, 2074 identifies Wards as responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of public toilets, as well as collecting household waste and managing surface water.
Many countries in the world now have started doing revolutionary practices in different fields to give people more facilities and make the cities livable. The transparent public toilets in Tokyo Japan, toilets with the smart trash cans and AI-powered traffic light human body sensor, using infrared rays and ultrasound in China, rotating toilets with a self-cleaning system in Swedes, cost-effective Sulabh Sauchalaya in the neighboring country India could be taken as an example of how different countries in the world are advancing their public toilet facilities for their citizens.
While observing the situation of 13 public toilets locations out of 41, we feel that Pokhara needs more public toilets at appropriate locations. The existing public toilets in Pokhara need a sustainable management plan as well as there is a need for strict monitoring from the local government i.e. PMC office. Uniformity in budget allocation, collaboration with the private sectors such as hoteliers of Lakeside, management contract with private parties could be the better step from the government side whereas the citizens should use the public toilets properly as protecting the public entity is a duty of every citizen.
Author: Monika Ranabhat and Prawesh Gautam