The technology of two-pit pour flush ecological compost toilet has made a radical difference in the sanitation scenario in India, says DR BINDESHWAR PATHAK.
Istarted my journey in the year 1968, when in rural areas and urban fringes, no house had a toilet. Women had to suffer the most. People used to go for open defecation. Girls did not want to go to schools due to the inconvenience. Children died because of diarrhoea and dysentery. In urban areas, 85 per cent houses had bucket toilets, which had to be cleaned manually by the people at the lowest rung of society, dubbed ´untouchables´. Public places seldom had toilets, and the facilities that existed were not useable, due to lack of proper operations and maintenance. I invented the technology of a two-pit pour flush ecological compost toilet, and implemented it, and that has made a difference. This technology served both the purposes - on one hand, it has converted bucket toilets into ´Sulabh´ flush toilets, and on the other, it has rescued the ´untouchables´ from the menial, demeaning job. It has also helped women to answer nature´s call with safety and dignity. Now the girls go to school without that sense of discomfort.
We have also given the concept of public toilets on a pay-and-use basis. Initially there was a lot of resistance, but now 20 million people use these facilities built by Sulabh International. We have built 1.5 million household toilets in both urban and rural areas. We have also constructed 8,500 public toilets throughout the country. Sulabh International has constructed the world´s largest public toilet complex at Pandharpur, which has 2,858 seats (WC), bathing facility, urinals, special toilets for physically challenged people, besides 397 toilets for VIPs. We have successfully produced biogas from public toilets. Presently there are about 200 such public toilet linked biogas plants in India.
Thus the technology of two-pit pour flush ecological compost toilet was invented, developed and popularised in the name of ´Sulabh Shauchalaya´ and this technology has made a difference in the sanitation scenario in India. We are into every aspect of on-site sanitation - from survey to designing, estimation, motivation, education, training, implementation, maintenance and follow-up.
Thus, this organisation is a pioneer in this sector, not only in India, but around the world. These technologies can help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) where 2.5 billion people still do not have access to safe and hygienic toilets.
Water for urban poor and rural areas
We have ventured into providing solutions for water for the urban poor and the rural population, especially in areas with geological sources of contamination of water. For example, several districts in West Bengal have groundwater contaminated with arsenic. People in those pockets are suffering from disease, especially from various skin lesions.
The science and technology of water purification has come a long way - from simple measures to highly sophisticated systems. I chose a system which could be affordable and could be adapted and replicated under different situations. We found that the surface water in these areas was not contaminated with arsenic. Therefore, we devised a simple robust system based on water quality, which would be suitable for surface water from ponds, rivers and shallow wells.
The raw water from ponds, rivers and shallow wells is subjected to flocculation - slow sand filtration followed by passage through activated carbon and finally microfiltration (up to 1 ¦). The clean potable water is filled in sterilised bottles and distributed to villagers. Following six projects have been commissioned: (1) Madhusudankati in North 24 Parganas, (2) Murshidabad in Murshidabad district, (3) Mayapur in Nadia district, (4) Suvasgram in South 24 Parganas district, (5) ISKCON Haridaspur in North 24 Parganas district and (6) Chaksultan in West Midnapur district. Six local NGOs are supporting these projects. The concerned communities are deeply involved in the respective projects in their areas.
We have set up a successful community-based model for the others to replicate wherever there are such issues.
For the urban poor, we have set up a water ATM in Delhi at one of our Sulabh public conveniences.
Whatever I have strived to do was for the benefit of the poor and the downtrodden and the ´untouchable´ sections of our society. Through well concerted social engineering, we have been able to completely change the lives of the liberated scavenger families - from a situation of pain and despair to that of hope, self-sufficiency and wellbeing. Physical requirements of menial demeaning labour has been overcome with ´Sulabh´ technology whereas religious obstacles have been overcome with love and understanding.
About the author
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak is Founder, Sulabh Shauchalaya. His innovations have gone a long way in improving sanitary facilities across the country.