Toilets everywhere in Sri Lanka are in appalling conditions …
Posted on January 11th, 2018

Dr Sarath Obeysekera

Toilets at railway stations………….


I am enjoying travel in trains these days and it is amazing that their fare is half of bus fares. Unfortunately, most of these trains are covered with filth in and out. Plenty of tourists travel by train and the impression they get of our trains, railway stations and toilets could be very negative. They are a good source of our income, but the Minister of Transport must do something soon to treat the visitors well, that they wouldn’t discourage their friends who plan to come to this beautiful country.I took time to see some toilets at our railway stations with the idea of seeing how well they facilitate our train passengers. The station master at Ja Ela railway station must be ashamed of how he keeps the men’s toilet padlocked. It may need some repairs but the male passengers who buy the tickets and enter the platform have their right to relieve themselves when they want. The ladies’ toilet is open, and men too, go in there to find only one is usable if they choose to go ahead in spite of overwhelming stench. Several stations have their toilets padlocked showing no concern for their dependent passengers. When asked, one worker said that is to prevent outsiders coming to use the station toilet. Every railway station has a number of workers who are idling all the time. These salaried employees could maintain the cleanliness of station toilets, ladies and gents rest rooms, as well as the platforms. Two stations were neat and pleasing to the eye with flower pots. With walls newly painted and maintained, they no doubt bring praise to the station staff.One interesting thing I must mention about a railway station toilet. I went into the toilet and came out with a disgusting anger. Whole day no one had dashed some water in there and the urine smell was unbearable. Right there at the entrance, a bearded man was asleep on a bench. He had a plate by his head and I saw a man who came out before me placing a ten rupee coin in the plate. So I thought that was the toilet cleaner who had not done his work for the day. As I gave him a hard pat to ask why he had not cleaned the toilet, he opened his eyes and said that if you don’t want to pay, never mind you may go. His reply puzzled me and he had several 20 rupee bills and ten rupee coins in his plate. I went to the station master to report this money collector and he said they have not assigned a man to do that job and charge the toilet users. Further, he said they have asked the canteen staff to take care of the toilet. What this stranger had done was sleeping at the entrance of the toilet with a plate knowing that gullible passengers place money in his plate.

When I read the article today in the Island ,I also whole heartedly agree that not only in Railway stations ,but everywhere in the island toilets are in appalling conditions ,I also wrote a snippet in the papers about how bad toilets are in Sigiriya

Sigiriya toilets out of order; tourists asked to go to jungle
Posted on February 24th, 2017

Dr Sarath Obeysekera 

I wrote about the Sad State of Sigiriya few months back .I mentioned the issues faced by not only tourists and our locals who are second class citizens” !Security and officers of and the officers of  the department of archaeology hang around the gates looking for foreigners who want to cheat the system by trying visit with tickets for locals which is much cheaper  and do not inquire about the sanitary conditions of the premises..During my visit I noted that touts selling artefacts at three –four time the price just before the entrance to Tourist car park where shops are located .When I confronted one and ask them why they rip off foreigners and even locals one local thud came charging at me .SigirIya management is a disgrace and the minister in charge should visit Sigiriya incognito and see it himself and may opt commit suicide

Quote below is what I wrote to Lanka web  last November


We Just returned from one of the World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka today. Despite the fact that I should not be climbing up the lion rock due to my age  ,I had a lion’s heart to overcome my own reluctance and fear  and I concurred.Rock was full of foreigners of European ,Chinese and many other nationalities who are charged 4350 Rs where I was charged only  80 Rs   ,Of course for 80 Rs I was not supposed to bring my car to the gate hence we had to hire three wheeler paying 300 Rs to get to the Local” gate after  a de tour .I did not get the wash room facility like in foreign sectors ( which reminded me of apartheid in South Africa ) where an attendant was standing at the door ( interestingly there was a notice board that it is free to use) ,who expected the foreigner (who discharged his refuse” on our land  ) is rewarded with a toilet paper half-roll when you enter and he keeps smiling .

I knew all these as I came down running to have pee and found that with all the precautions, toilet was smelling .I did not mind because local toilet is worse and stinks.If your remember I wrote about toilets in the museum in Pollonnaruwa .there were notice boards indicating for locals” and for foreigners”

I noted that so called guides  carrying an umbrella pestering locals as well as foreigners to use them and charging exorbitant prices. I also observed that  quite elderly men and women  were trying hard  to climb up with the help of guides who lose consciousness after hearing about  their fee after they descend.

We should ask UNESCO to provide a First Aid with some ambulance type device to bring down and person who can get ill due to steep climbing .Even at half way point there are no officers or para medics to attend to any emergency .Some stairs were badly rusting and wobbly and yet Department of Archaeology turns blind eye to defective structures. At the entry point they could have given some printed    material about the rock as the guides who speak foreign languages were uttering nonsense

Department guards look at local people who may be fair in colour with suspicion and my wife who was wearing a foreign attire was almost stopped until she blabbered in our language

On the way down scrupulous traders were milking money out of ignorant foreigners by charging 10 times for their artefacts and destroy the Sri Lankan name .

Department should privatize the whole Sigiriya Rock to a  party who may  run the establishment in a better  way so that they spend more money for the welfare of locals as well as foreigners .



Dr Sarath Obeysekera

Yesterday I landed in Colombo Airport and rushed to the toilet just by the exit near customs with my luggage ,which was entrusted to the porter .When you enter the toilet you can feel the repugnant  smell of urine and excreta in the toilet which is often used not only by Sri Lankans but many foreigners .There was  a toilet cleaner in the premises who kept asking money from visitors leaving the toilet after using it.One foreigner said loudly ,I do not have money with me to pay you.

Airport is charging every passenger through the air ticket a certain amount as airport taxes .I wonder what the  management in the airport are doing  to improve the situation ?

If you decide to travel by car or by bus for site seeing or visiting ancient cities in Sri Lanka ,you find many posh looking eating places with fancy names and a buffet laid in style which looks appetizing. Obviously the people who patronize the restaurant intends to go to wash rooms to clean yourself before consuming the food .

None of the eating placed have a proper wash room which does not smell of urine and have proper washing facililties or toilet papers .

We see slogans where Sri Lankans are asked to keep the country clean from rubbish ,but we need a have a new slogan to say Let us keep our toilets Clean

Dr Sarath Obeyskera

3 Responses to “Toilets everywhere in Sri Lanka are in appalling conditions …”

  1. Christie Says:

    We have an Indian installed regime. What do you expect?

  2. Nimal Says:

    Tells much about our backward culture. I was truly impressed by the then modern toilet installed and used by the American Peace Corp who were living and teaching at the Darmaraja Collage Kandy.Out of this world by then standards then at the house of Professor Dunnham at the Peradenys campus and the latter person’s toilet was so clean, I was frighten to use.
    I got similar fitted in our home with so much opposition by the local council. Toilets at the Queens’s were ancient but clean.This is going back mid 1950s.
    I always judged my old girl friends by the way they used the toilets, which is vital to me the reason I don’t go out much provided someone check the toilets for me prior to me entering, because any skid marks and things left behind put me off food..

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    DR. SARATH !!

    This is a very simple administrative problem, and I don’t know why the authorities cannot deal with it. Just my thoughts:-

    If the authorities cannot handle the subject, it is obvious that they lack organizational skills. If so, lease out the whole project to private parties, with stipulations on how the Toilets should be kept clean. Strict maintenance requirements should be listed. Locals too should be charged the same amount as foreigners, as what both parties are delivering is the same, urine and fecal matter. Attendants could be employed in every venue, with a Supervisor to boot, and, other than their remuneration, they could also be paid a 50% out of the payments received. This is not a business to make optimum profits. It is a service to maintain optimum CLEANLINESS. Hence there is no necessity to skimp on the attendants payments, keeping in mind, it is not a ** be happy job**.

    The people who make these Toilets a hell hole, are those who in general life has no toilet, or make use of Public toilets. Also, it is pertinent to say that villagers too mess up the place, due to their ignorance in the proper use of a toilet. It could be due to social implications. No malice intended.

    It will take a lot of effort to drive home **THE CLEAN CONCEPT**.

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