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A perfect sanitation solution

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The Twin Pit-Pour Flush system is undoubtedly the best form of sanitation that is safe and sustainable but there are certain challenges that needs to be addressed before we achieve the goal of an Open Defecation Free India by 2019

It has been three year since India launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) to achieve the ambitious target of an Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by 2019. The Modi Government has been doing its bit to meet the target but there are two very critical aspects that require intervention to achieve the goal. First, relates to software, ie changing people’s mindset to use toilets. Second, relates to hardware ie to ensure that people have access to the right products and technologies that make toilet-use easy and safe. While most campaigns do address the software aspect, they often fail to understand the importance of hardware.

India has made great strides towards changing mindsets around hygiene and sanitation. Families, individuals and communities are racing to construct toilets and have also signed up for SBA in great numbers. But when it comes to hardware, Twin Pit-Pour Flush (TPPF) latrines are the most preferred toilets, as also recommended by SBA, in rural areas where no sewer system exists. Approximately 47,000 TPPF latrines are built in India every day. TPPF latrines provide safe and sustainable sanitation when constructed properly, used and maintained.

Alternating use of pits every one to three years allows for natural degradation and composting of waste inside the resting pit. However, there are several challenges with TPPF latrines. As a product development engineer with over 15 years of global experience working on water and sanitation technologies, this writer has an interest in the efficacy of India’s TPPF latrines. As the head of product design for SATO, it’s this writer’s job to study the challenges TPPF latrines have been facing and the writer has done so with great interest.

The first challenge is around water usage. Traditional TPPF toilets are equipped with a P-trap mechanism that creates a water seal between the pot and the waste outlet. This P-trap requires high amounts of flush water to push away the waste from the pot to the pit. In water-scarce regions or during the drought season, water is unavailable for toilet flushing. When no water is available to flush the toilets, toilet usage naturally stops. There are two other issues caused by excessive water usage. First, the higher water usage, the quicker the pit gets filled. Second, increased water content in the sludge can increase the risk of groundwater contamination.

The second challenge we see is related to the design and the use of standard junction box, which is used to divert waste between two pits, which frequently becomes clogged due to poor craftsmanship or poor layout of pit locations. Based on feedback from interviews we conducted with masons, toilet owners and end users, we understand that a dysfunctional junction box is one of the main barriers preventing the acceptance of TPPF latrines by residents in India’s rural communities. Moreover, the junction box requires periodic cleaning and external support for pit switching. This work is not only dirty, but the service can be generally expensive and difficult to find in villages. These ‘hardware’ challenges have been largely neglected, and as a result, TPPF latrine systems have seen little innovation in the past four decades.

The good news is that with SBA, new technological innovations are starting to appear in the market. They are the only way to offer effective, sustainable solutions to these user pain points. Technologies exist today that are affordable, effective, and reliable. We invented one called the V-TRAP system that addresses these two challenges squarely on the head. When such innovations do come out, it is imperative to raise awareness of these options and make these new technologies more widely available to free people from toilet related challenges.

India is the torch bearer for making the world open defecation free and must show the world that this is achievable not only in terms of numbers of toilets built but in the true sense of ODF in prolonged and sustainable toilet use amongst all people. Innovations play a crucial role in this.

(The writer is Director of Product Design, SATO)




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