World Toilet Day 2022 Special – Highway Sanitation ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Regular readers of my blog will know that much of our travels are done on the road. While the destination is important, the journey needs to be seamless and comfortable too. The availability of good toilets heads the list for me – especially as a woman. As a traveler, one comes across varied levels of hygiene in India, depending on which part of the country you are in. While over the years the standard of toilets at highway motels and gas stations is quite decent, it still needs deeper penetration so that tourism is developed. In many of my previous blogs, I have tried to highlight the absence of good toilets near places of heritage where a high footfall of tourists are expected and a good toilet and a basic food court are the bare minimum that governments should provide.

This paper shows that sanitation facilities have not been given priority near places of religious importance or tourism.

I would think that it is the responsibility of institutions such as local governments, Muzrai authorities to provide required toilets, bathrooms and restrooms for tourists. Along with these facilities, adequate staff have to be employed to clean and transport the waste.  But due to negligence of local representatives of the people, the provision of sanitation of facilities has been adversely affected.

The Lavato Venture: I could go on and on, but this article is also to highlight the efforts of a private entrepreneur who is trying to revolutionize the paradigm of sanitation and the quality of toilets on the highway. In February this year, as we were getting back to Bangalore from our trip to Gurvayur and Thrissur, we stopped enroute at Krishnagiri (on National Highway 44) for a tea-break. Adjacent to the restaurant was a swanky looking complex with the signage ‘Lavato – Relieve yourself in Peace’. It was ‘pay and use’ toilet. I was curious and purchased the ‘entry ticket’, that was bar-coded. The ticket was scanned at the ‘turnstile’ gate and I entered the Women’s section of the toilet.

On Bangalore- Salem highway, the last thing I was expecting was this amazingly clean and modern toilet. I looked around and saw that other than toilets, there was a diaper changing room, a showering area fitted with geysers, a sanitary napkin changing room, washbasins with handwash soap dispensers. What stood out was the quality of material used in the building – whether it was the commodes, the tiles, the quality of health faucets, the flush and the sheer aesthetics. There are children-appropriate toilets and also for transgenders.

I stepped out to see that there was a convenience store that was stocked with water, soft drinks and eats, which also had a seating area. The entire toilet is centrally air-conditioned. The ticket to use it is Rupees 10/- for the urinal and Rupees 20/- for the latrine, and in my humble opinion, it was well worth it.  However, it may be out of reach for many families and this is perhaps where the government or corporate India can come in to make it a viable business. Along with the toll charges that the government collects, the facility of usage of this toilet can be included. It will be a win-win for the entrepreneur as well as the travelers.

I also got to meet Mr. Naveen, who is the Founder of this unique venture called Clean Quest Services Pvt. Ltd. The chain of toilets called Lavato is a spin from the word Lavatory. Indeed, on “World Toilet Day” today – November 19th,  Mr. Naveen should be lauded for giving up a career and setting up this venture. I have made a short video too on the toilet complex and given the link at the end of the article. Do have a look at it.

Lavato – Toilet Complex on the Bangalore-Salem Highway

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