Visit Nepal Year (VNY) 2020 was inaugurated with much fanfare in the capital, however, there is reason to be sceptical about it being a grand success.
People are not sure if tourists will return home fully satisfied or that they will refer friends to visit this country.
Sanitation is a big issue even in the capital, and until now, Kathmandu Metropolitan City has only made the designs of the public toilets but not built them. Given the nature of dilly-dallying on its projects, it can be assumed that these toilets will not be built anytime soon.
Nepal was declared an open defecation free zone recently, and visitors must be well aware of this. However, we can easily see people answering nature’s call in open spaces for lack of enough public toilets in the capital itself.
It is almost next to impossible to cater to Kathmandu’s more than two million population with just 62 public toilets, which again are not in good condition. And, with the heavy influx of tourists, it is unlikely that they will get any respite in emergency situations.
The favourite destinations of tourists are the World Heritage Sites, and most of them are either without public toilets or even if there are, they are in pathetic condition. Out of 32 wards in KMC, nine of them have no provision of public toilets, and Lalitpur too, is without public toilets in 12 wards out of 29. At some places, work is being carried out, but at a snail’s pace.
With the formation of the new local governments, hopes were high. The proposed smart toilets are nowhere to be seen. Even without them, the government could work on some smart ideas to remedy the situation. The city has, however, ample bathrooms in hotels, restaurants, hospitals, shopping malls, and even in private residences. So the government could collaborate with these private enterprises to narrow the gap between demand and supply. For this, such places could be awarded with a reduction in property taxes. Later, proper signage can be erected to inform tourists about private toilets, which they can use without hesitation.
This way, it becomes a win-win situation for all—tourists, government and property owners. Once the government has built enough public toilets, such service can be phased out. This, however, is unlikely to happen, so as a responsible citizen, if you happen to see a tourist looking for a loo, just let them in.
A version of this article appears in print on January 09, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.