Tuesday, March 24, 2009

toilets, but no water

The Indian media widely reported a tragic incident some days ago: A 45-year-old barber died as he was trying to escape from a squad enforcing a ban on open defecation. It is common especially for Indian villagers to relieve themselves in the open, e.g. in the fields or alongside railway tracks. There are simply not enough toilets in the country. As access to sanitation is to be improved as part of the UN millenium goals programme, India has stepped up construction of toilets, and is also trying to enforce their use: Old habits die slowly... Thus, the village council in Supe Road in the western state of Maharashtra introduced fines of up to 1,200 Rupees for anyone caught in the open. And they established the "Good Morning Squad" tasked with catching offenders. Barber Sunil Jadhav was trying to flee from the squad when he had a heart attack.
The "Telegraph" newspaper explains the problem behind the incident:
Jadhav’s village, Supe Road, has public toilets that residents said couldn’t be used because they had no water in summer.
Water shortage is already a severe problem in larger parts of India and is bound to get worse due to population growth. The only real solution can be toilets that don't use water flush, but store and recycle the urine and excrements for producing manure for agriculture or cooking gas. China has already introduced more than a million of these alternative or "ecosan" toilets in areas with water shortage; but in India, taboos and the lack of political will have so far prevented their large-scale introduction. Maybe barber Jadhav's death will lead to a change of mind there...

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