Indian Toilet Pioneer Champions Good Ideas
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-associates.org). It turns the waste into biogas
for cooking and heating.