Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ingenious toilet solution

The Economist reports: [edited]

People cross the street to avoid Baby, a sweet-faced young woman dressed in a cherry-red salwar kameez. It is the wide iron pan and wire brush she carries that mark her out as someone to be avoided: these are the ancient tools of the 'manual scavenger', a euphemism for those who clean up the faeces from houses that lack flushing toilets.

Manual scavenging was banned in 1993 by a law that also forbade the unplumbed toilets that necessitate it. But implementation has been slow. So several hundred thousand scavengers are still at work.

Unlike many of India’s social ills, manual scavenging could be eradicated fairly easily. Most of this work is done in towns and cities, where the scavengers have a reasonable chance of finding other work.

And affordable, hygienic toilets are available: Sulabh, a charity, has developed an ingeniously simple one, costing around $100, that empties into one pit, and then, when it is full, another. It flushes with two litres of water, compared with the ten litres required by a standard cistern toilet. It takes ten people two years to fill one pit, by which time the waste in the other has turned into composted manure, clean enough for growing vegetables.

Sulabh has built 1.2m of the latrines across India and helped 60,000 scavengers find new work. “The toilet is a tool of social change,” declares Bindeshwar Pathak, a (high-caste) brahmin.

So indeed it seems at Sulabh’s training centre in Alwar, in western India, where dozens of scavengers have learned cleaner ways to earn money. One of their best-selling products is the tiny white wick used in the oil lamps of Hindu temples.

Lalita Nanda, an ex-scavenger who is bundling the wicks into bags, says with a grin that they are all bought by priests who until recently would not let her cross the threshold of their temples.

via Defeating Global Poverty

1 comment:

BJMonkey said...

Isn't that the model you have in your house?