It is something most Jumlis do without thinking. As a lot of villages don’t have toilets, defecation in the fields, bushes and public spaces is the norm. However, in Jumla Bazaar things are changing and the sight of people shitting in the open is becoming less common. The historic centre of Jumla, the crammed bazaar area has very little room for households to add toilets to their houses, but since late 2013 the bazaar proudly showcased its two public toilets that were brought back into use after support from the Jumla Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI).
Jumla bazaar, always full of the hustle bustle of shoppers, school children, shopkeepers, the occasional foreign tourist and many local travellers, began its campaign against open defecation in June 2013. About two months later, a previously defunct public toilet built with donor funds was once again open for use, under the management of the local Tole Lane Organisations (TLOs) for operation and regular maintenance and a second one is being brought back into use.
Originally these public toilets, built in Krishna Mandir Tole and in Ranipokhari Tole were for use by residents, local businesses and visitors, became defunct due to poor management within a month of completion. Management responsibility for both was transferred to Chandan Nath VDC in August 2013 to enable the TLOs to take over the management.
Beginning in late 2012, with support from SNV Nepal’s Urban Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All (USSHA) programme, the JCCI selected 9 wards in the central areas of Jumla town to improve sanitation and hygiene. The USSHA programme aims to improve the health and quality of life of men and women through access to sustainable and environmentally safe sanitation and improved hygiene practices. Although various VDCs of Jumla have successfully declared open-defecation free (ODF), the district has not been able to do the same since it has not been able to address open defecation in the main bazaar and urbanised areas. Therefore a priority activity was rehabilitation of the two defunct public toilets, and the local authorities gladly accepted JCCI’s offer to takeover the process.
As a member of the local district WASH committee, JCCI visited each area and identified the residents, offices and shops within each tole (a cluster of households). SNV supported the district authority to establish TLOs with gender, ethnic and caste representation. The TLOs have worked on increasing awareness of sanitation and hygiene by sharing information, holding community events using both ‘triggering messages’ so people realised that open defecation meant that they were eating each other’s shit, followed by traditional health and hygiene awareness on effective hand and toilet washing.
“Before people used to defecate openly and they didn’t have habit of using water for cleaning after defecation. But now this public facility has benefitted residents as well as visitors”, says the President of Jumla JCCI, Mr. Gobind Bahadur Shahi. That has meant bringing together government officials, NGOs and the public to a common platform with a common understanding of total sanitation. Mr Shahi has been involved in the SSHA programme since it began working with the JCCI in August 2013 and is a prime mover in the sanitation campaign.
The results have been impressive. Within two months the Krishna Mandir toilet block was renovated and put back into full operation and the local TLO has been managing the facilities which were initially used by the public for free and now at a charge of 5 Nepali rupees(less than US¢1). The TLO has established user fees for their members which are paid monthly. Household fees depend on the number of members using the facilities. In case of any damage to the property the TLO will use the collected fees for renovation. There are over 150 people regularly benefitting from the TLO’s toilet, not including shoppers and visitors.
In addition to the improved environmental situation there have been other benefits. Local artisans were employed for the full renovation works and some local residents are making a small wage from operating the toilets and keeping them clean.
The importance of paying for clean and safe disposal of human waste in rural Jumla is still received with mixed feelings. However, the JCCI is committed to changing such attitudes by renovating the second toilet block and constructing more in the community for social and health benefits. Jumla’s previous target to declare the whole district ODF by 2014 has already been missed due to the sanitation situation in the district headquarters and a new target has yet to be set.