Tag Archives: India

“Talking Toilets”

Recently on gatesnotes.com, Bill Gates published a post on India’s on-going struggle to combat the effects of human waste and to find better, more effective ways to handle sanitation for all its people.

In the post he focuses on Prime Minister Modi’s recent Swachh Bharat campaign and the progress it has been making towards stopping the act of open defecation nation-wide.

The good news is that the campaign is working – the number of people with access to proper sanitation has gone up from 42% in 2014 to 63%, and that stat is continues to climb higher.

Like many of Gates’ posts, it’s an enlightening read. Here’s a link to the piece in it’s entirety.

In addition to the above post, Bill Gates also created a short virtual-reality video about the undertaking of Swachh Bharat. You can check it out below. (NOTE: It should be viewable in recent versions of Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.)

“Holistic approach to sanitation issues”

A recent post on dailypioneer.com by M Venkaiah Naidu talks of a more holistic approach being needed to achieve total sanitation in India. There no doubting the progress that’s been achieved since the Swachch Bharat Mission was launched in 2014.

“This is reflected in the physical progress achieved under the mission until now, which includes the construction of 29,18,669 individual household toilets and 1,10,665 community and public toilets across all cities and towns.”

But a critical next step, as Naidu points out, is the handling of waste – more specifically, solid waste. This is where the holistic approach referenced in the article comes into play.  As ODF slowly but surely becomes a social practice of the past, India needs to come up with safe, and effective handling and processing of all of the fecal sludge services hadn’t been collecting until recently.

“With 475 cities certified Open Defecation Free (ODF), it is equally critical to put our efforts towards the safe collection, treatment and disposal of all human waste that is collected from onsite sanitation systems such as septic tanks, in order to achieve safe, sustainable sanitation for all.”

While it’s always heartening to see progress in India, that very same progress is also shedding light on how complicated it is to bring proper, safe, and total sanitation to every human on the planet.  Luckily, many cities and municipalities in India are beginning to show up to face this task.

“To address this issue, the Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministry is committed to helping States and cities make rapid improvements in managing their faecal sludge, and has launched the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, which focuses on the provision of sewerage facilities and septage management in 500 cities across the country.”

The whole piece worth a read. It gives some interesting insight to FSM and the challenges ahead. Read the entire article by clicking right here.

“Do it differently: Toilets are not enough to achieve sanitation, India must reinvent the waste business”

In a recent article in The Times of India, Sunita Narain brings up the tried and true dilemma of how throwing new toilets at a city, without an existing waste treatment infrastructure, is not a valid answer to its poor sanitation problems.

"This is because we often confuse toilets with sanitation. But the fact is that toilets are mere receptacles to receive waste; when we flush or pour water, the waste flows into a piped drain, which could be either connected, or not, to a sewage treatment plant (STP). This STP could be working, or not. In the majority of cases, human excreta (our household waste) is not safely disposed but instead discharged, untreated into the nearest river, lake or a drain."

Indeed! We’ve mentioned multiple times on this very site that simply manufacturing and installing toilets, doesn’t answer the call for better sanitation. In the end, any sanitation solution we create needs a corresponding way to deal with the waste we humans create. Be it, gigantic sewage treatment plants or basic septic tanks, we need a place for our waste go instead of our rivers and streams.

Despite this common sense though, we still need efficient ways to remove our waste and transport it into receptacles safely for treatment. For many countries, retrofitting or building new sewerage systems in towns and cities is disruptive and cost-prohibitive, to the point of impossibility.

So, as Narain wrote so well about, Governments are starting to see the value of working within the existing infrastructure.

"Governments are beginning to realise that yesterday’s system can be re-engineered to work for today and tomorrow. They now recognize the fact that septic tanks are decentralised waste collection systems. Instead of thinking of building an underground sewerage network – that is never built or never completed – it would be best to think of these systems as the future of urban sanitation. After all, we have gone to mobile telephony without the landline. Individual septic tanks could be the way to achieve full sanitation solutions."

It’s important remember: sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Many times you just have to find different ways to use it.

We encourage you to read Sunita Narain’s article. You can get to it by clicking right here.

“A Perfume that Smells Like Poop?”

A very interesting post was recently published on the personal blog of Bill Gates. It is about odor, and it focuses on the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s partnership with Firmenich and how they are attempting to combat odor, or eliminate it completely.

“Millions of new toilets are being built around the world to help end open defecation, including in India where a massive new toilet construction program is currently underway. This is great news. Unfortunately, many of these new toilets, especially the pit latrines, don’t get used because they smell bad and people continue to relieve themselves in the open where the air is fresher. This is a worrying trend that threatens to undermine the progress that’s been achieved in global sanitation.” – Bill Gates

As you may imagine, one of the many challenges we have faced in creating a sanitation system (and promoting its adoption), is a human’s natural aversion to the smells that can often occur with bathrooms used by the public.

A video from the post (also embedded below) includes a few scenes from Ahmedabad slums, and Christian Starkenmann applying Firmenich bleach powder in an Ahmedabad community toilet.

Our project has worked closely with Firmenich over the last 2 years. RTI and our partnership with SEWA facilitated this latest visit to slum areas for part of the filming of this video in September.

To read the post in its entirety, click here.

“Have We Substantially Underestimated the Impact of Improved Sanitation Coverage on Child Health?”

KidsCropped

An interesting research article posted recently on plos.org covers the findings of two large studies conducted in India where instances of child health/morbidity weren’t necessarily reduced by improved sanitation quality. Furthermore, it was found that the value of sanitation was only improved through effective community coverage.

“We hypothesis that the value of sanitation does not come directly from use of improved sanitation but from improving community coverage. If this is so we further hypothesise that the relationship between sanitation coverage and child health will be non-linear and that most of any health improvement will accrue as sanitation becomes universal.”

Past history/sentiment has shown that if we could just improve the quality of sanitation that, naturally, incidents of malnutrition and death in children would decline. This research article posits that, that notion is only part of the solution.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.