By Binu Shrestha
Kathmandu, Mar. 3: Mushroom trader Raj Kumar Nakarmi of Balambu used to arrive at Buddha Park of Swayambhunath early in the morning to sell mushroom.
Having to spend almost the entirety of the day there — catering to customers and bargaining for prices, Nakarmi did not have any option but to use public toilets to relive himself. A few months back, the prospect of using those alarmingly unhygienic public toilets used to be nightmare for him. However, with the installation of a smart toilet from November last year, Nakarmi doesn’t have to worry every time he has to answer the nature’s call.
Of the three functioning smart toilets built in the Kathmandu Valley, one was set up on November 19, 2020 at Swayambhu in the financial support of AEROSAN, a social enterprise working to set up more smart public toilets.
Normally, public toilets are not easily available in all places in Kathmandu, and even if they are, their conditions are poor.
The smart public toilet is built with the perspective of delivering hygienic sanitary facilities replete with sensor lights, auto-flushes coupled with proper ventilation to keep the restrooms well-lit, fresh, and free of odours.
Furthermore, the toilet is disable-friendly with spaces segregated for diaper changing to ease mothers and their infants. Likewise, with the view of comforting women during menstruation, the smart toilet provides a sanitary pad dispenser and pad-burning machine.
The facility has also generated employment for three people with dignified job as cleaners. Bini Deula Chaudari, a resident of Kirtipur, started working as a toilet cleaner with the opening of this toilet.
Earlier, she worked as a road cleaner, sweeping the streets every day around Kirtipur area.
She used to earn no more than Rs. 2500 a month, which was barely enough to meet her day to day expenses.
“I felt humiliated to do the job I used to do. But here, I have been making around Rs. 13,500 a month. The job here is much safer, and I have been given the respect that cleaners deserve,” she said.
“We also offer tea for visitors. If they want tea, they will pay for it, if not they will simply pay for using the toilet. There is also facility of lunch as per the demand of customers at the mini café,” she added.
The lead initiator of the project and the AEROSAN country representative, Prakash Amatya said that currently three smart toilets are located in Swayambhu, Baneshwor and Mangal Bazaar.
He said, “Our aim is to expand the facility in other places and provide dignified job for cleaners.”
The smart toilet also addresses the issues of rain water and manages waste efficiently. AEROSAN has installed a rainwater harvesting system and reed-bed water recycling system. “The system is self-sufficient in nature,” said Amatya.
He further informed that there is also a facility with a human waste only digester. Wastes are collected in the digester tanks so that the faecal matter is disposed without mixing in water sources resulting in an odourless-colourless liquid.
Moreover, the waste water that accumulates after washing hands are further collected in tanks, which undergoes the natural filtration process where one gets clean water that becomes enough to reuse for flushing the toilet, he added.
The waste generated in the toilet is also used to generate bio-gas, which is then used to cook tea and other food items at the café inside the toilet premises.
– The Rising Nepal