- Rural India was declared open defecation free on Oct 2, 2019
- Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 focuses on fecal waste management
- Different terrains and regions need different kinds of toilets
New Delhi: Since the start of the nationwidec cleanliness campaign Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014, India has shown rapid progress in terms of toilet construction. Until October 2014, rural India had a mere 38.70 per cent of the sanitation coverage now that stands at 100 per cent. With the massive sanitation drive in recent years, over 6 lakh (6,03,177) villages, 706 districts and 35 states and Union Territories (UTs) have achieved open defecation free (ODF) status, as per the data available on Swachh Bharat Gramin dashboard, a web portal hosted by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Rural India achieved its goal of open defecation free (ODF) on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 2019.
Now, under Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, the government is focusing on one of the biggest challenge that remains, WHICH is controlling the menace of liquid and solid waste. While the Government of India is promoting the construction of twin pit toilets for on-site fecal sludge management but the issue of fecal waste management, especially in hilly regions and high water table areas.
Of course, twin pit is a great toilet technology to manage fecal matter on site, but it is not suitable for every region. You cannot use it in flood prone areas as it will lead to ground water contamination and other issues, says Anurag Gupta, Regional Manager, East, WaterAid.
To understand different toilet technologies, including much appreciated twin pit toilet, suitable for eradicating the practice of open defecation along with managing fecal sludge on site, NDTV spoke to experts. Here are some of the technological options that tackle the dual issue of sanitation as well as waste management.
Twin Pit Toilet Technology
The twin leach pit toilet or twin pour flush toilet is a complete on-site sanitation measure at the household level. Along with the toilet, two three feet deep pits having honeycomb structure are constructed for collection and management of fecal waste. A distance of three feet is maintained between two pits that are used alternatively.
After every use, a user has to pour water to push down the excreta. While the water and urine percolates in the soil through honeycomb structure, fecal waste gets collected in the pit, says Sanjeev Shekhar Jha, Project Leader, Learning and Knowledge Management, India Sanitation Coalition, FICCI.
In a family of five, a pit gets filled in two to three years. When the first pit gets filled, the flow of waste is diverted to the second pit via junction chamber and the first pit is closed for two years. In a span of two years, the fecal matter collected in the first pit degrades and turns into manure which can be dug out manually and used for agricultural purposes.
Cost of construction: Rs, 12,000 to 15,000 until and unless beneficiary opts for high end fittings.
Cons: The toilet technology cannot be adopted in high water table and flood prone areas as it may lead to ground water contamination. Also, in rocky and hilly areas, there is no chance of percolation of water from pits.
Ecosan Toilet Technology
Ecosan toilet or ecological sanitation technology is a one stop toilet solution for areas dealing with water scarcity; desert; rocky areas where it is not possible to dig pits; flood prone areas where there are high chances of fecal waste getting mingled with water; high water table areas where underground pits can contaminate ground water.
Ecosan toilet is the only toilet that is constructed entirely above the ground. A regular ecosan toilet has two chambers, each having three sections – one each for urine, faeces and water used for anal cleaning. The two chambers are used alternatively for a period of one year. While urine and water used for cleaning are collected in two separate containers, human waste is stored in a pit. The collected urine is stored for a month, diluted with water and then used as fertilizer and water used for cleaning is sent to the ground. Human waste collected in a pit constructed above the ground is left for six months to degrade into manure.
Instead of water for flushing, ash is put over faeces after every use; hence, ecosan toilet saves water. Since the toilet, including containment tanks is constructed above the ground, there is no chance of ground water contamination, says Anurag Gupta.
Cost of construction: Rs. 16,000 to 22,000
Cons: Firstly, the cost of construction is high as compared to a regular leach pit toilet. Secondly, people prefer traditional pour flush toilet and don’t accept it the way it is used.
Bio toilet is one of those toilet technologies that are suitable for all kinds of terrain, and topography. A bio toilet converts human waste into biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) and provides compost. For management of human waste, a tank having three chambers is fitted inside the ground. 30 per cent of each chamber is filled with bio media – inoculums bacteria and the inner layer of all three compartments are covered with artificial grass, helping bacteria create its colony.
As soon as the fecal matter enters the first chamber of the tank, inoculums bacteria starts working on it. Since all the chambers are connected to each other, slowly and gradually, waste moves from one chamber to another. By the time the waste reaches the last section in the tank, the bacteria has already digested it and converted it into toxic free compost and bio gas, says Nikita Vaz, WASH specialist.
The bio gas can either be released in the environment or converted into any other form of energy via biogas plant. Connecting the toilet with bio gas plant increases the cost of construction.
Cost of construction: Rs. 1.5 lakh
Cons: The toilet technology is expensive as the tank itself costs Rs. 1 lakh. Also, the availability of bio-media is difficult at a local level.
Tiger Toilet Technology
Requiring little water for flushing human waste, linked to no sewer systems or traditional flushing mechanisms, tiger toilets look like any other pit latrines, but have biological agents to treat human waste. Tiger toilet technology derives its name from worms, an essential part of the technology, that have black stripes on them, just like tigers. The worms (Eisenia fetida) breed on different kinds of faeces including human waste and turn it into manure.
Explaining the structure of tiger toilet and its functioning, Ms Vaz says,
In the ground, three feet deep pit is constructed with multiple layers where all the human waste gets collected. The bottom of the pit is earthen and over that there is a filteration bed with gravel and sand and next layer having cow dung and tiger worms bedding. When human waste reaches the pit, worms start acting on the excreta, leaving no stench or breeding of mosquitoes.
While worms eat the fecal matter and give decomposed matter which is the compost, water gets absorbed into the earth. Since the worms survive and make their colony through fecal waste, they won’t escape on their own.
The cost per kg of tiger worms is Rs. 300 and for every 20 people one kg worms is required, says the expert. However, it is advisable to put 2 to 3 kg of worm in one pit.
They need our human waste to live. If you stop using toilet, worms will die and the entire technology will perish. In order to make sure worms breed, use toilet and don’t defecate in open, says Ms Vaz.
Pro Tip: Don’t use bulky cleansing agents to clean the toilet else worms will die. Use a mild detergent or largely water to keep the toilet clean. After every use, a bucket of water is enough to clear the excreta.
Cost of construction: Rs. 16,000 to 22,000 (may vary depending on the number of pits and number of people).
Cons: The technology is not suggested for high water table and flood prone areas. Expert guidance will be required while constructing a tiger toilet in rocky areas, because the type of terrain matters the most in fecal sludge management.
Evapotranspiration Toilet Technology
Evapotranspiration toilet model is popular in US and Brazil. Considering the success of toilet technology, it is being adopted in different parts of India to manage waste without human intervention. Explaining the toilet technology, Mr Gupta says,
Evapotranspiration means evaporation through the soil or filled medium and transpiration through plant leaves.
As part of the technology, a trench is created near a toilet for treatment of waste. The trench processes, digest, absorb and release all the human waste that goes in it. Since, the top layer of the trench has broad leaf plants like Banana and Canna Indica, it does not look like a waste processing tank.
Explaining the construction of the trench, Mr Gupta says,
A five feet deep, three feet wide and nine feet long trench is dug which is then lined with plastic and a layer of bricks. Waste pipe from the toilet is placed at one of the ends of the trench. A tyre tunnel is created by placing tyres horizontally. Basically, the fecal waste goes inside the tyre tunnel; the solid matter gets converted into minerals (which are absorbed by plants) through mineralisation process and moves upward through capillary action. Urine and waste water too move upward. So, the waste enters from one end, undergoes varied processes, and finally, biogas is released in the atmosphere.
What Is Capillary Action?
It is a pulling force generated in the pores in the filled medium which acts against the gravity. Example: If you put one corner of a handkerchief in water that moves upwards (against the gravity), an entire handkerchief will be wet after a while. This effect is due to the capillary action.
The space around tyres is filled with soil after which a bed of soil and broken bricks is formed. Stones are used to form next layer followed by a layer of sand over which broad leaf plants are planted.
Since the biogas released in the atmosphere is less in quantity, it cannot be harvested. Also, it does not harm the environment much.
Cost of construction: Cost of evapotranspiration digester varies due to transportation. For household level cost of evapotranspiration digester comes around Rs. 6,000 along with Rs. 9,000 for superstructure that is the toilet.
Cons: It is not feasible to construct a trench in flood prone and high water table areas.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.