The oldest form of toilets in Bhutan were in strange ways comparable to the most advanced toilets today because they didn’t need to be flushed, they never got blocked, and at the end human waste wasn’t a problem.
The typical traditional toilet hung from the first floor with a wide opening, and poop dropped one floor straight down losing all its smell in the wind before it landed. On the ground pigs would wipe clean everything as if there never existed a toilet, except for the sticks and stones that were used for wiping (May be our forefathers reused those). Remember not a single drop of fresh water was wasted. In fact some families fought with pigs to save the poop for producing manure.
Unfortunately, in 90s our toilets changed suddenly and people were obliged to shut their traditional toilets. People found it disgusting to see their own poop centimeters below in the pot, and smell filling up the air tight chamber, worse they couldn’t understand the logic behind wasting huge amount of fresh water to wash their waste.
So old habits die hard; they still feel the pigs would eat after they leave and therefore forget to flush (or intentionally save water), and they smuggle in sticks and stones to wipe their hard butts, which land up choking the new toilets.
The fastest way to solve our toilet usage crisis is to bring back our traditional auto system toilet or wait till the last generation of traditional toilet users die. Well that’s what most educated experts think when we discuss toilets but that assumption seems to have caused most of the modern toilet problems in Bhutan.
The assumption is that our people don’t know how to use toilet well, therefore our toilets will be dirty, which made our intelligent engineers come up with a solution even before the problem emerged. The solution was to hide the toilet from public places, so that it doesn’t become an eye sore in the unforeseen future.
Smart solution, because not many people found them and therefore every open space became toilet for our people, and some people who managed to discover the hidden toilet found it very safe to misuse the facility because there is no one around to watch, while others reach there at the end of their wit and let go wherever they could manage to lower their pants.
It’s hard to find the starting point of our problem loop- is it because our toilet are hidden that caused the problem or is it because our people don’t know how to use toilets therefore it’s hidden? Anyway, it’s time to break the loop and dare to test our people- present them with clean toilets with adequate water supply at a reachable distance and see if our people are so evil.
During the 18 days Public Toilet Facelifting event by Bhutan Toilet Organization across the country we found out that toilets that are within populated areas are still in use and in better condition, whereas the ones that are tactfully hidden from public eyes are not only blocked and dirty but also destroyed.
by Passang Tshering
The writer is a Teacher at the Royal Academy in Paro