Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Public handwashing stations lie in neglected state


By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Apr. 17: In March last year, with the threat of COVID-19 increasing in the country, the government and health experts were urging people to wash their hands with soap and water whenever they came into contact with other people and surfaces. However, when out on the roads, it feels that this was easier said than done as people have to look for stone spouts or go into shops to find water.
To mitigate this problem and promote hand hygiene, various groups and institutions began setting up handwashing stations, which consisted of water tanks, taps and soaps or handwashing gels, in different locations around Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) was one of the first organisations with its branch offices placing such stations in New Road, Thapathali, Tripureshwor, Ratnapark, Baneshwor, Maharajgunj and other several busy centres.
“These stations were placed to enable people to keep clean and wash their hands when walking on the streets or out in the market,” said Prakash Kumar Rai, spokesperson for KUKL. “They were managed by the respective (KUKL) branch offices at their own cost.”
However, with the number of daily infections decreasing and fear of the coronavirus subsiding, the handwashing posts stopped being maintained. The tanks were often without water, there was no soap and the taps were broken. But KUKL has again started looking after them, said Rai.
“There were some complaints about the condition of our stations. But now, we have repaired them and ensured that they always have water. Our tanker section regularly refills the tanks,” he added.
Similarly, at Janata Street, Chyasal, residents and businesses pooled their resources to place a handwashing station in their community. The station had a 300-litre tank fitted with a tap, a foot-operated soap dispenser and a packet of paper towels and was set up at a cost of Rs. 100,000, said a local shopkeeper. He did not wish to be named, for he did not want credit for the collective effort of the community.
“However, a couple of days after we built the station, the lockdown was imposed and it became useless. People were not allowed to go out of their houses, so naturally nobody had any use for public handwashing posts,” he said. “Eventually, the community also lost interest in maintaining it.”
Last month, the locals removed the water tank entirely.
“It is sad that all that money and effort went to waste,” the shopkeeper said.
Similarly, mobile dealers of Pako, New Road, had also placed 250-litre drums in 12 places at the end of February last year to allow people who came to their shops to wash their hands. However, they have fallen into disuse in recent months.
The tank placed by the Agricultural Development Bank outside its head office in Ram Shah Path is also empty and is dented in many places.
Many handwashing stations all over the valley are seen lying damaged and neglected.