Posters of deities deter people from relieving themselves on roadside walls

Kathmandu, November 18

Three years earlier, people used to urinate on roadside walls from Kamalbinayak to Khwopa College.They have now stopped doing so. And it’s not because the law prohibits such act, but because they wouldn’t bare their private parts in front of deities!

Sushant Nayaju, a student of Khwopa College, shared that three years ago people had to cover their noses while walking on the road due the foul smell of urine and human excreta. “But now things have changed and no one urinates on the roadside walls as posters of deities have been pasted on them,” shared Nayaju, adding that it had allowed people to walk with ease on the road.

This is an example which is just like the ‘Nudge theory’ propounded by Richard Thaler, who won the Nobel prize for economics last year. Nudge is a concept in behavioural science, political theory and behavioural economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour of groups or individuals.

“Only imposing laws and fines cannot change the attitude and behaviour of people. Working with the idea connected with the sentiments and beliefs of local people can help change people’s behaviour,” shared Nawaraj Khatiwada, an engineer and professor of Kathmandu University.

“Government should formulate non-coercive policies to change people’s behaviour,” he said.

Nepal is yet to declare 16 districts, including Kathmandu, as open defecation-free zones. Nudge theory can help change people’s sanitation habits. “We don’t need huge investment to change people’s behaviour, what we need is an idea that can appeal to people’s sentiments,” he added.

Call for access to toilets

All people everywhere should have access to safe sanitation services, including hygienic toilets that are connected to quality sewage systems, stated a press release issued by New Delhi-based World Health Organisation Regional Office for South-East Asia today.

On the eve of World Toilet Day,  Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO regional director for South-East Asia warned that for many people across the WHO South-East Asia Region, access to these services remained a problem, with 900 million region-wide lacking basic sanitation, and more than 500 million practicing open defecation.

“This leads to increased human-faeces contact and the transmission of a range of diseases, from cholera to typhoid and hepatitis A and E to tapeworm,” she said in the release.

In recent years member states, which includes Nepal, have made significant progress. Region-wide, urban coverage of basic sanitation is now close to 70 per cent. In a majority of countries, rural coverage exceeds 50 per cent.