Thursday, November 19, 2015

The toilet world - hygiene and efficiency

India is large as well as diverse and not everyone of us have a clear understanding of how things are done or the problems faced by people of various parts of the country. I was not aware of the fact that people defecate in the open till I made my first train journey to the northern parts of the country. Where I grew up, we have had different type of toilets with a western commode on one end and a platform over a pit on the other end of the spectrum.

Constructing a minimum of an improvised septic tank with a closed toilet, I still do not believe is as much a big deal for most of the people from northern India as much as I think it is a cultural issue. I am basing my statement based on my personal experience during my days in New Delhi in the nineties. I had a colleague coming from a very well to do farming family in Najafgarh, a place in the fringe of the national capital. He preferred to have the morning conference in the open field with the vessel they call “lota” rather than use a toilet.

I have also heard stories of our village folks resisting a toilet inside their house compound considering this to be unholy and preferred to dirty the entire neighbourhood instead. It was truly sad that people still thought that way while rest of the world have moved their toilets inside the bedrooms.

I will be naive to imply that everyone in India does not use a toilet out of their own choice. We also heard of many incidents of girls being compromised when they went outside their house after dark to answer to the nature’s call. There are hygienic issues too arising out of this lack of adequate sanitation system. The groundwater as well as the surface water gets contaminated constantly ending up being the single most reason for the spread of diseases.
We should be ashamed of this state of affair as people living in our lands during the bronze age civilizations had proper urban planning. The Indus cities during the 3300–1300 BCE are noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, and clusters of large non-residential buildings.

The good news is that we are moving in the right direction. Last year PM Modi had pledged to ensure every girl school in the country have proper wash room and I wish him success. We have also noticed big changes in the cities with affordable “sulabh pay toilets” commissioned at all strategic locations within our cities.

We are not alone in this misery as rest of the developing world too has sanitation related issues. I am aware of at least a few places in Africa who are facing similar uphill task to provide basic facilities to their people in cities as well as provinces.

India is caught in the middle of two extremities. On one side we are challenged to provide basic sanitation while on the other we are faced with the demand to make our living sustainable. Water conservation is quite high on the list of sustainable living and therefore we look forward to install affordable pneumatic system to reduce or eliminate the quantity of water used for flushing. A system similar to the one used in the aeroplane toilets. While this is our wish for tomorrow, today we are grey water to flush our toilets. Grey water which is the water collected from the bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines is expensive as it requires a separate holding tank and network.

By the time the whole of India catches up with the sanitation, we should be ready to provide a affordable and effective solution. let's put on our thinking caps to evolve as innovators to be prepared for a bright tomorrow and India is not caught napping when the big change occurs.


3 comments:

  1. Very well said! Its a big issue, and the solution in a vast country like India is not straightforward either. Small steps will lead to the final destination!

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  2. Unfortunately a burning issue in our country! Lot many factors have to be sorted out to get this problem solved.

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  3. I hope things improve in this direction. It feels sad to see people continuing to use the pavement just outside the sulabh sauchalayas even now.

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