In­dian Toi­let Pi­o­neer Cham­pi­ons Good Ideas

Southern Innovator - - CITIES & URBANIZATION -

Ac­cess to ad­e­quate san­i­ta­tion and toi­let fa­cil­i­ties is crit­i­cal to mak­ing de­vel­op­ment gains. Yet this sim­ple fact of life is of­ten over­looked, es­pe­cially in fast-grow­ing cities where pop­u­la­tions are on the rise or in transit. Out of an es­ti­mated 2.6 bil­lion peo­ple in the world with­out toi­lets, two thirds are in south­ern and eastern Asia (World Toi­let Or­ga­ni­za­tion).

One coun­try cur­rently fail­ing to meet the needs of its pop­u­la­tion is In­dia. Ac­cord­ing to the Mckin­sey Global In­sti­tute, by 2030, 70 per cent of In­dia’s jobs will be cre­ated in its cities and 590 mil­lion In­di­ans will be city dwellers.

As K.T. Ravindran, a pro­fes­sor of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment, told The New York Times: “We re­quire rad­i­cal re­think­ing about ur­ban de­vel­op­ment. It is not that there are no ideas. It is that there is no im­ple­men­ta­tion of those ideas.”

It is this abil­ity to act that makes the Su­labh In­ter­na­tional So­cial Ser­vice Or­ga­ni­za­tion stand out. The In­dian non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion (NGO) sees it­self as a move­ment and is a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate­for­toi­let­sand­toi­letinno­va­tion­forthe­p­ooran­dun­der­served. Su­labh was founded in 1970 by Dr. Bin­desh­war Pathak, who saw the vast task ahead. “I thought the chal­lenges to pro­vide toi­let fa­cil­i­ties have been over­come in rich coun­tries; they have still to be met in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries like In­dia,” he said.

So far, Su­labh has brought to­gether 50,000 vol­un­teers across the coun­try to build toi­lets and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s suc­cess flows from un­der­stand­ing that it needs to do more than sup­ply the “hard­ware” of the toi­lets. It also needs to ad­dress the “soft­ware”: ideas and in­no­va­tion and con­cepts.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion has di­rectly built 1.2 mil­lion house­hold toi­lets but the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia has built a fur­ther 54 mil­lion based on the de­signs made by Su­labh. It is an ex­am­ple of a good idea mul­ti­ply­ing its im­pact when picked up by oth­ers.

While 10 mil­lion In­di­ans use a Su­labh-built san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity each day, ac­cord­ing to the group’s web­site, an es­ti­mated 300 mil­lion are us­ing a toi­let based on Su­labh’s de­signs.

The most in­flu­en­tial is Su­labh’s two-pit, pour-flush toi­let. It con­sists of a toi­let pan with a steep slope us­ing grav­ity to flush the pan. The suc­cess­ful de­sign has been eval­u­ated and ap­proved by UNDP and the World Bank. – (May 2011)

The San­gli­wadi Com­mu­nity Toi­let built by In­dia’s Shel­ter As­so­ci­ates ( shel­ter-as­so­ci­ It turns the waste into bio­gas

for cook­ing and heat­ing.

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