Using public toilets can often be a hassle and inconvenience for most of us. From the less than ideal cleanliness to the occasional absence of essential amenities can make the experience far from pleasant. Now think for a moment – what it must be like for people living with physical disabilities, for whom accessing public toilets is not just an inconvenience but also a battle for inclusion and dignity. People with physical impairments face many obstacles in public restrooms due to their poor accessibility and lack of inclusive features, underlining the urgent need for improved facilities to assure their inclusion in society.
Recently, Lalitpur Metro has broken ground on new smart public toilets. Talking with several local authorities, we were able to gather an overview on the progress on these toilets which is presented further in this article.
According to Lalitpur Metropolitan City, a total of 11 public toilets are being built in different locations, out of which nine are being handled by National Competitive Bidding (NCB) and two are being handled by Aerosan Sustainable Sanitation. In June, Mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City Chiri Babu Maharjan laid the foundation for one such smart toilet at Patan Durbar Square. The toilet, besides featuring traditional architecture will also be female and disabled friendly. The toilet, once complete will comprise of six urinals and three toilets for males, and six toilets for females, along with one for people living with a disability.
Similarly, other toilets planned in the metropolis are site-specific and vary depending on the location’s requirements. While not all toilets will be smart toilets, certain features and amenities will be incorporated based on the accessibility of different wards. All public toilets are under construction phase with the tender process having been completed.
The facilities and design of the public toilets are tailored to the availability of land area of the respective locations. The inclusion of breastfeeding rooms, parent-friendly rooms, and disability-friendly rooms as well as other amenities will depend on the available land area and requirements of each ward. In addition, the provision of sanitary product dispensers and vending machines may also be incorporated depending on the location. The inclusion of treatment rooms may also be considered, moving forward, according to local authorities. However, it should be noted that as the toilets are still in the construction phase, the specific operation modalities have not yet been finalised, although it would be a step towards a more inclusive society if we see these facilities upon completion.
Local authorities are said to have been actively visiting these construction sites and conducting consultations regarding the operation and management of the facilities. The modalities for operation, including maintenance, staffing requirements, and costs of monthly operations are once again yet to be determined.
Once the construction phase is completed, the focus will expectantly shift towards the operation and management of the public toilets. The successful completion of the facilities would be a step towards promoting inclusivity and providing dignified sanitation facilities for all.