Access to Sanitation for all - Interventions to test with bourgeoisie

Other day I was reading couple of articles on sanitation for all, as it is closely linked to one of my work areas. Sanitation in rural areas in India is a major challenge. We should understand how people perceive 'cleanliness'. Though many campaigns are routed on access to toilets, I have had my own reservations on it. It is not a bad idea to provide a toilet and costs linked to a household which is habituated to open deification. This idea is definitely bad if we are not linking these toilets to closed drainage system. I can tell this from my experience in a village, where I worked for 2 years during my Masters. 

With many incomplete questions in my mind I will go ahead and explain this work component I have been associated. As most of my blog readers are from U.S, Canada and Russia let me give a brief intro about this programme introduced by Government of Andhra Pradesh, India. Smart Village Smart Ward a programme which is at conceptual stage and has just entered implementation. The idea behind this programme locality development through collective action in villages and wards routed through highly motivated individuals or agencies. Govt. will support such interventions by convergence. The theory and focus behind this initiative is concrete. Implementation in the field can only prove the results and promote agenda. This programme has 20 non negotiable components. 

1 . Homes for all – with access to toilet, safe-drinking water, and regular power.

2 . Every household has diversified livelihood opportunities and/or micro-enterprise.

3 . End open defecation.

4 . SHGs and youths have access to skills development and Village Enterprise Development with bank and market linkages.

5 . 100 per cent institutional deliveries.

6 . Has functional solid/liquid waste management system.

7 . End all preventable maternal deaths and infant deaths.

8 . Zero school drop outs of boys and girls up to 12th class.

9 . Functional toilet, potable water, electricity available in Anganwadi Centres, schools, health centres, GP/Ward buildings.

10 . Malnutrition free (children below 9 years of age).

11 . End girl-child marriages (girls below 18 years of age).

12 . Every farm has soil health card, enriched essential micro-nutrients and diversification with livestock and trees.

13 . Every village household has a functional bank account/PM Jan Dhan Bank Account.

14 . GP/Ward has its own dynamic development plan prepared by community participation

15 . Has green trees all over its geographic boundaries.

16 . Has functional water conservation and harvesting structures.

17 . Has functional Information Centre, Computer Lab, and Mee-Seva Centre.

18 . Has telecom/internet connectivity.

19 . Gram Sabha/Ward Sabha are held four times a year with minimum two-thirds attendance.

20 . Has a functional grievance redressal system.

I am sure you will agree with me that these 20 Non negotiable components are well framed and well worded. I must tell you that each component is further linked to set of indicators to understand peoples perception on development interventions taken up in the village or easy monitoring and evaluation. 

Four(1,3,6 and 9)out of 20 Non negotiable components are linked to sanitation. This is where my writing will further proceed in this post. I understand that the length of post is considerably long which is different, as I always restrict myself to short ones. I hope to receive practical responses in this context. 

The intervention I am writing here is about Eco-friendly toilets as an effective solution. As the country prepares to provide access to sanitation for all by 2019 - which translates to building toilets for 600 million people, which is roughly half the population with no access to sanitisation.The government has its work cut out go for eco-friendly toilets, which are affordable, effective and have multiple advantages. Compiled few points with my friend Akshay.

The ecological toilet system aquatron developed by the Swedish aquatron international AB, is a compositing toilet utilizing ordinary water closets. The company has over 25 years of experience on waste water separation that works without electricity. The company’s main product is the patented and CE-certified aquatron separator (without moving pars or power consumption) where urine and flush water will separate from solids. The company manufactures several different versions of the aquatron in order to cater to the varied needs of the customer segment-from holiday cottages to public buildings and residential buildings.

The aquatron standard system operate by using just the momentum of the flushing water, centrifugal force and gravity. Therefore, neither moving parts nor chemicals or electricity are needed in the separation and composting processes! Aquatron system combine the comfort and hygiene of a WC system with the ecological and environmental characteristics of a bio-degrading toilet system.
This is how it works
1.     Aquatron uses standard water closets (flushing column 3-6 litres) or special models where the urine is mechanically diverted from the flushing water and the solid waste in the bowl itself.

2.     When the toilet is flushed, the contents of the bowl are transported to the aquatron separator where approx 98% of the liquid fraction is separated by using the momentum of the flushing water, centrifugal force and gravity. The aquatron separator needs no moving parts.

3.     The solid waste (paper and faeces) falls down into the bio chamber where it is composted by bacteria and, if desired by worms. If using worms the volume of the solid waste will be reduced by appox. 95%. The need for emptying and handling the waste is therefore reduced to a minimum. Optionally,after installing an aquatron system some 250-300 worms are placed into the bio chamber. The number of worms needed to maintain the composting process will adjusted automatically by nature. Optimal temperature for the composting is 12-25 degrees celsius, a temperature level recommended for year round inhabited homes. Freezing will kill the worms. The composting process is free from odour and flies because the bio chamber is ventilated and the small amount of liquid following the paper down into the bio chamber is removed by a drain at the base of the bio chamber. When the aquatron 90 and 400 models are emptied, the refuse must be composted to soil in the garden together with the normal garden and kitchen waste. However, the models 400*100, 4*200 or 4*300, require no further composting.

4.     The Liquid proceeds to the UV unit where it is exposed to ultra voilet light which kills bacteria and viruses or phosfortrap. The liquid may then be treated as grey water (bath,dish wasting and laundry water) which means that the toilet wastewater may be inflitrated into the ground or into the ground or into a suitable receptacle. Since the liquid fraction is separated from the solid waste, Aquatron systems are not sensitive to peak load usage.

However, its not just building more toilets, rather its about constructing toilets which are eco friendly and help in preserving our planet amidst mounting challenges of global warming and climate change. As resources such as water become scare and with seemingly unstoppable pollution levels in cities threatening to aggravate the threat of green house even further, the world is staring at a number of challenges, prominent being the food crisis, which is looming large and health for all. The bottom line is we need to act quickly to find effective solutions to some of the pressing problems faced by our society today, needless to say open defecation tops the lists.

And eco friendly toilets could be an effective solution to address some of these challenges. After all, health is wealth. Isn’t it? To conclude, according to the UN, sanitation and hygiene are engines that drive health, social and economic development, and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Here my questions start, shouldn't first pilot this in urban habitations and understand practical implications? I believe water conservation should first start from cities and they are pioneers in terms of wasting water. Interventions such as this to be first taken up in MNCs, Institutions of governance, the bourgeoisie, the white collar class and upper middle class to test the potential of  the intervention.

Once this is tested on a larger scale in urban areas, it will spread like virus to rural areas and acceptance is also considerably high.

Think about it!

Do share your feedback!

- Aparna Bhumi 

Analyst (August, 2015)