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An Unlucky Visitor Caught Up In The CBD
Has To Really Look Hard To Find A Toilet

Coastweek -- Continuing on the theme of loos from last week, the matter in Nairobi is yet to be fully concluded but it seems that the private operators of the toilet facilities in Nairobi have been given a temporary reprieve as the Governor retreats to re-strategise how he can take over the facilities and probably re-allocate them to favoured people, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

That is how cynical Kenyans have become.

We do not believe that any politician will be up to any good if they repossess a facility by decree in the name of the public without showing us what it is they intend to do with it BEFORE they repossess.

The sad truth is that many of the people surrounding the public leadership in this country are there for what they can get out of their proximity to the centre and not for what they can offer the leader in terms of advice and service in the name of returns to wananchi.

Even the County Executives (who prefer to be called Ministers!) may have been in it for the right reasons in the first place but they quickly fall into bad ways due to the temptations that come with the territory and soon begin to take a little for themselves.

This quickly grows into demanding cuts in everything that they approve.

This is not to say that all are bad but the reality is that the taking of cuts or demanding bribes is a cancer that is well established and consumes even the hardiest of the new crop of public leaders.

Our focus this week will be on the lack of public facilities for the burgeoning populations of the various cities and towns.

If one just takes the Central Business Districts (or CBD) in both Mombasa and Nairobi and one tries to find toilets or smoking places, one would struggle to find one easily.

This struggle is replicated in most urban areas across the country.

Even with the addition of opportunities for private operators of the facilities, they are still difficult to find.

They tend to be where it is perceived there will be high demand such as in the recreational parks.

However, a person who is in the CBD has to really look to find a toilet.

First, there are very few and they are far between and secondly there are simply no sign posts anywhere directing people to the nearest ablution block.

It is bad enough for pedestrians but one should really pity the poor motorist who wants to answer the call of nature.

One has to first look around to find out where there is a facility.

I searched on Google maps using the words nearest toilet both in Nairobi and Mombasa and was pleasantly surprised by the large number that appeared on the map.

I was looking for facilities within five kilometres of my location.

Almost all that show-ed up on this search were hotels!

It meant that for most motorists, the quickest way to have a wee or a pooh in the city centre is to find your way to a hotel and hope that they will allow a “walk in” to use their facilities and free of charge at that.

Navigating past the askari at the gate who is always inquisitive about what one wants to do is the first hurdle.

Finding it quickly is the next.

Many a time I have witnessed people wet themselves in a building as they desperately try to find the washrooms as they are too pressed to pass by the reception and ask – though that would be the quickest way.

I refined my search and looked for public toilets and lo and behold, Google maps yielded results.

However, just like in the case of city hotels, the first obstacle to using the facilities is to find suitable parking close by the public facilities.

Most of them are located with pedestrians in mind – not motorists.

So just like in the case of hotels, one can find the facility quickly enough using Google maps but then the time spent looking for parking may result in the driver wetting their clothes in the process.

Passengers can at least be dropped off.

I have witnessed several occasions where a driver puts on the hazards long before they reach where a public toilet is located and they then stop the car near the kerb, jump out quickly, close the door and lock with the remote as they run towards the public facility only to be stopped that they must pay before they enter and they end up either barging their way through if the infrastructure is such that you can do so.

If there is a turnstile that can only open when payment has been made then what I have witnessed is very embarrassing accident happening at the entrance to the facility.

It is time that the County Governments across the country develop a standard formula for determining the location and numbers of such facilities based on population density and also convenience.

These facilities should then be located at places where one can park for the duration of their visit to the facility up to a maximum of say ten minutes (for those with ‘Delhi bellies’) and the usage fee should include a small amount of money to take care of maintaining that parking.

The facilities should be clearly sign posted or even better, painted a distinctive colour or colour scheme that allows one to recognise the facility from a mile in any urban centre.

Regular use and pinning by users will quickly put the facility into Google maps so that one can find them easily.

We look forward to positive vibes coming out on the issue of toilets instead of the negatives we are getting from Nairobi.

Public consultation and some little degree of innovation will create better relationships between the county governments and the county’s residents.

If the political class want to be re-elected then the easiest way is to get to the hearts and stomachs of their voters.

As Kachumbari says, a person desperate for a pee or pooh is not a pretty sight to behold.

 

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