A tourist's guide to public toilets

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 09, 2017 17:38 hrs
India toilets

Public toilets in the city of Varanasi in India. Image: Jorge Royan, CC BY-SA

India has been ranked in the top 10 countries that charge the least amount for using a public toilet, as compared to the rest of the world. Now this is another story that just locating a public toilet in any Indian city is a mammoth task, not only for tourists, but for Indians as well.

The ranking has been done by QS Supplies - one of the prominent bathroom and plumbing retailers in United Kingdom, under their Corporate Social Responsibility initiative.

“Having experienced the upside and downside of using public toilets at different destinations, we have put together a toilet guide which every traveller can use,” explains Tauseef Hussain, the content strategist with the company.

The guide, based on the research findings, includes a map to help the user locate the nearest toilet facility and inform them what it is called in the local language. For example, in India, it is called ‘Shauchalay’, the research points out.

This map also mentions if the toilet requires the user to carry their toilet roll or if it is provided, and if the toilet use is free or if there is any fee. For example, in India carrying a toilet roll is recommended and the average charges are Rs 5, according to the research mapping.

“The charges depicted are the average fee for using the toilets in the area, as many places such as cinema halls or shopping complexes, provide free access to washrooms,” says Kylie Wall, the content creator with QS Supplies. However, whether one is the quintessential travel buff or a novice explorer, our ‘toilet guide’ will help everyone in the usage of public toilets across the globe.”

The World Toilet Tale

Type of Toilets     Asia          v/s          Rest of the world

Pit Toilets             7                                     8

Squat Toilets       74                                    49

Sitting Toilets      22                                    43

The company intends to disseminate information regarding the toilet guide, which is vital from the point of view of tourists, through social media and traditional ways.

Indian government follows suit – ready to launch a toilet map

Coinciding with the plans of the British company, the Indian Government is ready to launch its Mission Toilet Locator, a part of the ambitious Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission). The initiative is currently undergoing a trial. It is expected to come into force on October 2, the anniversary of Gandhi’s birth.

The Locator is supposed to synchronise the location of toilets with Google maps. It will provide information about toilets in cinema halls, malls, petrol stations, railway stations, and other public places. It will also provide the option for people to give feedback on the condition of the toilet.

Lucknow – the capital of Uttar Pradesh – is going to be one of the 100 odd cities which are expected to find place on the map. Hence, the state government is leaving no stone unturned to figure in the list.

Making a move in this direction, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath declared the new Bollywood movie, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha (Toilet – A Love Story), tax-free in the state. Yogi not only held a meeting with its lead actor Akshay Kumar, he also made him the ‘brand ambassador’ for promoting Swachh Bharat Mission in UP. The film is scheduled for release on the 11th August.

“People have the means but do not have the mind set to use the toilet, they store their cow dung cakes in it,” Yogi says while expressing his concern over poor sanitation status in UP.

The Census 2011 data endorse Yogi’s concern. The data highlights that 64 per cent of UP’s 32 million population goes for open defection. The state figures at 7th rank in the worst ten states as far as sanitation is concerned.

Odisha and Jharkhand are shown to have 78 per cent open defecation (highest in the country) but their population is 9.6 million and 6.1 million, respectively. Hence, putting the figures into context, UP has 3 to 5 times more people defecating in the open than states like Odisha and Jharkhand.

Incidentally, the QS Supplies’ research also establishes that countries that are charging low fees for the use of toilets have the highest percentage of open defecation. India falls amongst those countries in African and Asian continents, where open defecation has been rated between 26 and 50 per cent.

Map source: QS Supplies (UK)

Alka Pande is an independent journalist, travel blogger & photographer based in Lucknow. She writes on issues relating to government policies, environment, health, business, and human resources.

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