Thamel offers everything to foreign tourists, but lacks a very basic thing: A public toiletOfficials at Thamel Development Council say the land is too expensive to construct public restrooms.
Last month, the Nepal government celebrated Visit Nepal 2020 with much fanfare. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City had allocated Rs 2 million for a weeklong extravaganza that included cultural shows, concerts, and food festivals. But neither the central government nor the city office showed their concern in building public lavatories in Thamel.
“We have been raising our voices for over a decade for the construction of toilets, but we have not got any support from the government,” said Prakash Narshingh Rana, president of the Thamel Tourist Development Council. “Now, one aana land costs anywhere between Rs10-20 million. This place lacks open spaces as well.”
He said the council had installed a portable public toilet in front of the Employees Provident Fund office in Thamel two years ago, but Kathmandu Metropolitan City removed it.
According to the council, more than 80 percent of the tourists who visit Nepal go to Thamel and choose to stay there. Rana estimates that over 3,000 tourists visit Thamel every day, but due to the outbreak of coronavirus in China, the number of tourists visiting Thamel has come down.
Last year in April, the Department of Tourism inaugurated a tourist information centre in Thamel and mobilised an additional number of tourist police personnel for security, but the matter of building public toilets was conveniently ignored.
Even the officers of the Tourist Police deployed in Thamel feel ashamed about this fact.
“We seldom get asked about toilets by tourists. Many use toilets in their hotel or at eateries, but a restroom is essential for tourists in Thamel. Due to lack of public toilets, sometimes we also need to go to the restaurants or hotels to relieve ourselves,” said Sub-inspector Durga Shrestha, the in-charge of Tourist Police in Thamel.
Most tourist guides tell their clients to use the restroom before they go out. “It’s not just the tourists. Even I have suffered in Thamel due to the absence of public toilets. The eatery owners do not mind tourists using their restrooms, but this does not send a good message to the tourists. No matter how expensive it is, the government should make toilets here,” said Dev Chaulagain, who has been working as a city tour guide for the past five years.
Even the tourists who visited Thamel were not happy to learn that Thamel didn’t have public lavatories.
“This is a very basic thing, a very essential need the authorities should consider,” said Chris, 64, a native of Canada, who was eating with his wife Lori, 63, at a restaurant in Narsingh Chowk.
When the Post inquired regarding the issue with Khemraj Tiwari, the Ward 26 chair of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, he blamed the business persons and the government authorities for not having a single lavatory in the country’s most happening tourist hub.
“They do billions worth of business transactions with tourists in Thamel, and even the government gets a hefty amount in taxes, but none of them cares about having a toilet here,” said Tiwari.
“To address the issue, the ward office is looking for alternatives. We are having discussions to construct a public toilet in Bhagabati Bahal.”
But Tiwari could not give a timeframe in which a toilet would be built. Instead, he said the ward office had already informed all the hoteliers and restaurant owners in Thamel to provide free toilet services to tourists.
“To go to a hotel, restaurant or pub just to use the restroom does not sound very practical,” said Lori, a Canadian visiting Nepal for the third time.