This may surprise you but for a city with a population of over 100,000 Thimphu has only around 10 functional public toilets. As a result Thimphu has a public toilets problem.
With a shortage in the number of toilets there is an increasing trend of people urinating around building blocks and passing stool in open places.
Phuntsho, a truck driver by profession said, the public toilet at the truck parking is severely damaged, is filled all over with stool and is covered with bushes. “We do not have any alternative then to use the open lawn to attend the call of nature. The concerned authority must look into it,” he said.
Similarly Lobzang, the chairman of the craft bazaar committee said, due to a sanitation problem the public toilets above the craft bazaar has been kept close for almost 11 months. As a result many people were using the bushes near the new textile academy for bathroom breaks. “Recently we have discussed and opened it to the public with a caretaker from September,” he said.
Sulab International a social service organization from India monitor’s the public toilet at the Sunday market, the public toilet at Memorial Chorten is being monitored by Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and remaining 8 are regulated and monitored by the Thimphu Thromde.
The public toilets are located at various places like city bus parking, near milk booth, RICBL office, Centenary market etc.
To ensure access to clean water and sanitation for 24 hours, the Thimphu Thromde has appointed a caretaker for every public toilet in the city but the caretakers have their own complaints.
Chandra Kumari Rai, who looks after the Memorial Chorten Public toilet said that since it is very hard to clean every now and then she just cleaned it once in the morning and evening. She said that in a day she just collected Nu 200-300 from toilet fees, at only Nu 2 but that the caretaker at the bus parking and centenary market collect much higher amounts as people pay Nu 5. During special occasions in the Chorten she collects Nu 500-600 a day.
Harka Maya, caretaker near RICBL main office said, “We clean three times in a day but the collection here is very less at Nu 100-200 during weekdays and Nu 300 to 400 during weekends.
Similarly Santa Bir, who recently took over centenary farmers public toilet said, “We do cleaning everyday and sometimes we clean two times in a day. I do not know how much the collection comes in a month but in a day it comes to approximately 700-800.” Despite the claims of cleaning the toilets it smells as people pass by.
The head of the Department of the Sewerage, Samten said, initially caretakers are given water and electricity free, but things are now changing as they do not have to pay the amount that they collect from toilet users to the Thromde but instead they have to bear the expenses for buying necessary things like soap, hard broom, phenol, buckets and jugs to ensure sanitation.
Sonam, a private employee said, public toilets are far and few, it is poorly managed.
Despite not making having regular checks to maintain the sanitation and safety in the toilets Thromde officials makes occasional sudden checks on the public toilets.
Tshering Peljor, the Chief Environment officer with Thimphu Thromde said, urinating and passing stool in the residential areas and open places could not only pollute environment but will also affect health and hygiene of the people.
In addition to the 9 public toilets that Thimphu Thromde already has, Thromde has allocated Nu 2.5 million to come up with two more public toilets.
For the construction of public toilets within city and parks, the Thromde has an outlay of Nu 4.5 million for toilets in the location between RBP and Imtrat, crematorium and the Mothithang Park.