If the level of a society is measured by how public facilities are maintained, we are not very far from being barbaric. This is particularly true when it comes to public toilets.
And there is no denying that when it comes to the toilets at the two football stadiums. The renovated national stadium boasts of huge sitting capacity and artificial turf with floodlights. But there is no adjective to describe the state of the toilets located beneath the stadium.
Sinks stained with doma juice and blocked by cigarette butts, and broken toilet pots greet the visitor. If that is not embarrassing enough, there are sticks and stones – a habit Bhutanese cannot seem to get rid off to clean themselves after answering nature’s call – blocking the flush system. Water is as scarce as a chance to play at the new stadium.
With toilets broken or blocked, the shower compartments are used as smoking rooms and toilets. Smoking in public places is banned in the country. Smoking in sports facility is banned all over the world. The Changjiji football facility is no better. Developed long after Changlimethang, Changjiji ought to be in a better condition, but is religiously following the Changlimethang trend. A common observation is that when the toilets are dirty, people choose to relieve themselves in the open.
The national stadium hosts important events beyond sports. They may be cleaned and tidied when important events approach. But the place is always busy because of the thrill of playing on artificial turf, and so the toilets cannot be ignored.
The irony is that is that the two facilities are quite new. And, unlike in the past, they are making money. It costs a lot to play on the expensive artificial turf. With roughly six games a day and both facilities charging between Nu 3,000 to Nu 4,000 a match, there should be enough to maintain a crucial part of the facility, the toilets. Those who complain about the facility feel that from the income, those responsible for maintaining the facilities could afford two full time cleaners. There may well be cleaners; if so, they are not doing their job.
The bigger irony, however, is the misuse of the facility by users, who are the so-called educated and civilised urbanites. The fee makes sure that only a few get to play. These fortunate ones include the likes of civil servants, corporate employees, and some students – all those who preach hygiene and sanitation. Much will depend on how the facilities are used.
A dedicated cleaner can do only so much if users continue to abuse public facilities. It takes two hands to clap. If the toilets are clean and have running water, users wouldn’t mind paying a nominal fee. We have good examples around the city.