Sunday, June 4, 2023

Kicking up a stink

A casual conversation about sports in Nagaland led to the topic of stadium experience as a fan. It then found a more precise way to the question of what keeps the fan away from the ground. One of the many reasons cited was the terrible treatment of spectators ~ no attention is paid to the comfort of the spectator, poor seating facilities, absence of protection/shelter from the sun and the horrible toilet facilities. Most grounds across the State don’t even have loos. The few grounds that provide toilets don’t maintain them. Among other reasons, this is one of the key factors that keep spectators ~ especially the female fans ~ away from our sports arenas and grounds. Naturally, this raised the wider question concerning public toilet facilities in the State. Doctors advise us not to hold our urine for long hours if we are to keep the urinary system healthy. For a normal fluid intake of 2 litres per day, the normal range of urine output is said to be 800 to 2,000 millilitres in a day. If this balance is skewed, urologists warn, we face a high risk of forming kidney stones or suffering from urinary tract infection, among other complications. But consider this scenario: You are a street hawker or an autorickshaw driver or a porter or simply out on an errand with a long shopping list and you feel the urge to urinate during the day when you are out on the streets of Dimapur. How many public toilets can we locate in the vicinity and how many of them are functional? It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to imagine that asking our readers whether they can locate a functional toilet in town is emotional manipulation in itself. Even those who are not out on the streets every day have a few stories, each of having to return home quickly or enter a restaurant or a mall or strangers’ homes during such emergencies. Women who have to change their sanitary pads or tampons; children who have to change their diapers; senior citizens who cannot control their bladders; and persons with disabilities who cannot find ramps or tactile paving to reach the few functional toilets ~ each of us has a tell-tale story of the loss of dignity when it comes to dealing with such emergencies. And yet, we are used to going about our lives without complaining that the most fundamental of human necessities remain unmet in a city that boasts itself as the State’s alpha urban centre. In a city with such bustling residents out on the streets every single day, it is unacceptable that we boast of just a few public toilets, most of them smelly, dirty and inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The conditions in other urban centres of the State are no less different. All through the years, politicians and bureaucrats alike have failed to build and manage functional public toilets even as people continue to experience discomfort as well as face the risk of infection and diseases, including cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid. It is basic knowledge that the health of a city or a town is inextricably linked to its toilets and it is imperative to provide them in sufficient numbers. In 2010, the United Nations recognised access to sanitation as a citizen’s fundamental human right and this should be fulfilled without any excuse. And yet, 12 years on, we are still stuck at the stage where declaring our cities and villages open defecation free is parroted as a developmental success story. The tragedy is that this is what we get for allowing our leaders to rush to meet the Sustainable Development Goals targets on paper rather than bringing concrete changes in the way we manage human waste. And they will continue to take us for a ride as long as we don’t kick up a stink.