Sotang is the chief trade and commercial hub for the areas where we work in the northeastern valleys of Solukhumbu district. The weekly Friday market alone draws over 5,000 people from the neighboring villages including from Gudel, Chheskam and Bung. The market itself is held in the main center of Sotang called Shivatar (Fustel in the original Nachhiring Rai languague).
In 2013, our local NGO partner in Sotang realized that there was a dire need to build a public toilet and drinking water system in the market area if they were to maintain their Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. They sent us a proposal, and we supported the construction of a 4-room public toilet and a public tap stand adjacent to the Friday market spot.
During the weekend, the toilet is primarily used by market goers. On other days, the local school makes use of it. The school and the market management committee jointly clean and maintains the toilet now.
The public tap stand has been providing free and clean drinking water to the market goers and community members. Local residents close to the market center use it for drinking, cleaning and washing.
Sotang was heavily affected by the recent earthquake, and one of the most impacted communities in the entire district. There were dry landslides in many places of Sotang during the second quake on May 12, which were followed by many landslides once the monsoon rains saturated the already-weakened soils. Many houses were destroyed, and the public tap stand in the Shivatar market also fell victim to this.
The landslide exposed all the buried pipelines and also fractured the land where the main reserve tank was situated. The water supply and the toilet are fed by the same source located a few meters above the tapstand, and immediate repair was imperative. Otherwise both the toilets and taps would have been destroyed.
The local community was prompt to respond, and quickly raised 20,000 rupees ($200 USD) to repair the pipes and divert the landslide. This cost was kept low because many community members pitched in and worked despite the heavy rains.
“Not only did we repair the damage, we also cleaned the whole market area that day”, says Prithvi Bahadur Thapa the chair of the Market Management Committee.
Handing over projects and ensuring local buy-in is the most difficult aspect of our work. We are proud that the community in Sotang identified and solved this problem on their own, despite all of the other challenges caused by the earthquake. This demonstrates that they truly own and value the project and while the overall budget for this initiative was small – what it represents is invaluable.