Addressing the Sanitation Crisis - New Toilet System Fosters Behaviour Change in India

»» The privilege of having a safe, clean and private toilet is not regarded as a privilege by many of the people on earth; indeed, it is taken for granted. However, 2.3 billion people still live without access to proper sanitation. Imagine, every time you wanted to go to the toilet, having to walk for half an hour to get there. Only, there’s no toilet, just nature. Imagine having to hide so that others don’t see you. Imagine having to fight off mosquitos and snakes, or worse, sexual harassment and potentially rape. This is the reality for a staggering 892 million of the people on earth who still defecate in the open, of whom 550 million reside in India.

6.4% of the GDP of India – US$53 billion – is lost annually due to death and diseases borne of bad sanitation. These are figures that can’t be ignored. That’s why the government of India launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission in 2014. It aims to have the entire country of India Open Defecation Free by 2019. This not only requires a massive 110 million individual toilets to be constructed but also the disposal of liquid and solid waste safely and sustainably. Furthermore, it involves convincing people to use these new toilets. It is no small task and not something that can be undertaken unaided. However, through the forming of strategic partnerships, the government of India is ensuring its success.

The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme’s Indian branch is a key partner in realising these sanitation goals. First off, it is assisting in the construction of efficient, sustainable twin-pit toilet systems whilst simultaneously embarking on a massive behavioural change communication campaign with local villagers. Lack of awareness around the link between sanitation and health issues, combined with cultural beliefs around the proximity of toilets to cooking areas, has resulted in many people preferring to defecate in the open. Leading by example, Dharmendr Piplode, a supervisor at Aga Khans Rural Support Programme, had to first build his toilet close to his house and demonstrate its benefits, before the villagers of Buliya Khedi in Madhya Pradesh accepted the idea. Now people are embracing the notion of a safe, clean, nearby toilet with open arms and are queueing to have their toilets constructed by the newly trained local masons.

Social Media Vignette

India mainly makes use of twin-pit toilet systems but the badly designed structures of the past added to their notoriety. It was, therefore, crucial to add a private sector partner to the mix. Global building products giant, LIXIL, added their expertise in the design, manufacturing, distribution and marketing of bathroom products and created affordable, easy to install SATO products that are effective for the villages in India. These solutions are a global first, designed specifically for the people who are most in need of them. In India, their contribution is two-fold; firstly they re-designed the badly implemented Y-configuration twin-pit toilets into a sleek V-configuration with perfectly straight pipes, thereby negating any chance of clogging. By retaining the twin-pit system it allows users to first fill one pit, and whilst utilising the second pit, allow the first pit’s contents to turn into dry, safe compost that can be used as fertiliser. Secondly, the innovative SATO trap door mechanism reduces the amount of water needed to flush the toilet, as well as serving as odour and insect control.

Due to their cutting-edge solutions – solutions that work and that are sustainable – they have played a major role in the behavioural changes of the rural poor in India. LIXIL’s sanitation solutions contribute to healthy living and well-being for all and have resulted in a successful public-private partnership, thereby ensuring that millions of people in India will have access to this basic human right.