CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights?
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TOPIC: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights?

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 21 Feb 2013 10:46 #3538

  • joeturner
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JKMakowka wrote:
The article you linked was not very specific in details. However was there some specific thing actively preventing them from building an flush toilet themselves? If not I don't quite understand your issue.


I'm sorry, I was blogging about the concept rather than the specifics. In brief they are that the SA government has a responsibility to ensure that everyone has basic sanitation. In Durban/eThekwini, over 80% of residents have flush toilets. Of the rest, there has been a massive programme of building VIP-style latrines, which are emptied periodically by the municipality. This particular group has been offered UDDT which are basically buckets for reasons of cost. More details here

That they could build their own flush toilets is irrelevant. The government has decided that it cannot afford to offer them more than bucket toilets.


From a regulators point of view it is correct to force people to have *some* sort of sanitation solution for public health reasons, so either they build themselves what they consider adequate, or they have to accept what is being offered.


Which ignores the objective fact that bucket toilets are totally inadequate. And also does not engage with my point - in that human psychology means that people are inclined to reject things when they feel they are being short-changed. In this case they are right, they are being short-changed.


Of course a smart offer would include a cash subsidy equal to what the offered solution would cost, but not in every case that is really feasible or anywhere near of what people would need to pay for the flush toilet.


A smart solution would be to offer people a sanitation offering which is adequate. Clearly by any measure a bucket toilet is not as good as a VIP toilet which is not as good as a flush toilet.

Now a different case would be if they were offered an expensive but inadequate solution, like done in a case with a badly designed vacuum toilet system in South Africa etc.
I don't know anything about that.

Besides (but I guess you know that) a properly designed and operated waterless toilet is not inferior to a flush toilet (I wouldn't mind switching myself, and have used one for longer periods in the past).


Based on what, exactly, do you make that statement? Dry toilets do not kill pathogens sufficiently to be safe. So no, they are definitely inferior and are unsafe. I accept there are different types of flush toilet and that there are problems where they flush into septic tanks. But a drain-and-sewer flush toilet is absolutely and undoubtedly safer than any kind of dry urine diversion toilet or VIP system.

It is not about the design and engineering, it is about the science. Small scale cold composting does not kill the pathogens. Therefore it doesn't work. Therefore it is not safe.
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.
Last Edit: 21 Feb 2013 10:47 by joeturner.

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 21 Feb 2013 11:07 #3539

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I agree that if the SA's government has a law that they have to offer basic sanitation, and that if they build VIPs in the past in the same area (I assume the flush toilets where self financed?) the solution for the remaining inhabitants should be equally convenient (to avoid wasting money on something that isn't used). However if there isn't any money for that, what exactly is the respective agency supposed to do?

But as mentioned above, a properly designed and operated dry toilet, with a feces collection system and professionally run composting sites is vastly superior in any sense to a VIP toilet that is emptied from time to time (and the sludge dumped somewhere).
And a case could be made that it is also better than the typical "leaky sewer, no properly running waste-water treatment plant and discharge into a water body that is used for drinking water abstraction, fishing, irrigation etc." classical solutions, besides being much more cost efficient and less prone to technical breakdown.
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Last Edit: 21 Feb 2013 11:16 by JKMakowka.

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 21 Feb 2013 11:22 #3540

  • joeturner
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JKMakowka wrote:
I agree that if the SA's government has a law that they have to offer basic sanitation, and that if they build VIPs in the past in the same area (I assume the flush toilets where self financed?) the solution for the remaining inhabitants should be equally convenient (to avoid wasting money on something that isn't used). However if there isn't any money for that, what exactly is the respective agency supposed to do?


I'm not offering solutions as much as illustrating that it is a rational belief to reject CLTS and poor sanitation offerings, even if they can be said to be better than no sanitation.

But as mentioned above, a properly designed and operated dry toilet, with a feces collection system and professionally run composting sites is vastly superior in any sense to a VIP toilet that is emptied from time to time (and the sludge dumped somewhere).


Totally agree on this point. Mesoscale composting is the only ecosan composting toilet system that works. All other types of composting toilet are bunk.

Of course, there are very high health risks associated with the collection and operation of a co-composting site, especially for the workers.

And a case could be made that it is also better than the typical "leaky sewer, no properly running waste-water treatment plant and discharge into a water body that is used for drinking water abstraction, fishing, irrigation etc." classical solutions, besides being much more cost efficient.


I think we agree more than we disagree. Properly run mesoscale composting and vermiculture systems are the answer. VIP latrines and pit latrines are not. But even that is a minority view, as far as I can tell.

I am no fan of flush toilet systems, mesoscale composting sites work well. But it is definitely true to say that a person who has a bucket or a VIP latrine is aspiring to something better by looking for a flush system. The challenge is therefore to persuade him that a composting system is as good as a flush system, rather than to try to persuade him to use poor quality bucket or VIP systems.

With regard to CLTS, I cannot see anyone having enough knowledge of mesoscale co-composting to safely construct their own system, can you?
I don't work for anyone, I am a philosopher interested to think about how we think about WASH and sanitation. All thoughts are mine alone, I am responsible for any errors.

Previously trained and worked as a Soil Scientist and worked on projects composting sewage sludge.
Last Edit: 21 Feb 2013 11:24 by joeturner.
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Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 21 Feb 2013 12:57 #3542

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joeturner wrote:

With regard to CLTS, I cannot see anyone having enough knowledge of mesoscale co-composting to safely construct their own system, can you?


Yes, good idea to get back on topic

In my opinion CLTS alone only really works (and was originally intended and tested) in remote rural areas. This is both because of social factors (which partly plays into the problems that were discussed previously in this topic) and because in low population density areas low-tech solutions like the Arborloo that don't require emptying are usually acceptable from a public health point of view. Besides that, you will rarely find an rural area with a high percentage of flush toilet systems, the remaining users could aspire too
However, some components of CLTS can be used in an (peri-)urban setting for demand creation of a service model that incorporates meso-scale composting for example.
Krischan Makowka
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Last Edit: 21 Feb 2013 13:00 by JKMakowka.

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 05 Jul 2013 12:29 #4945

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The project under scrutiny is suppored by an organisation piloting UDDT in Ethkwini municipality in SA.

When I visited the locating in 2008, the facilities were poorly maintained due to several reasons, and not due to technical competence of the facilities. Also, some toilets were water logged while some were well maintained and I am pf the opinion that there were several lessons to be learnt as a result of the pilot programme.

In Nigeria, type of excreta disposal facilities at household level is the prerogative of the household since the policy says its the household responsibility, with locations advice and support from the EHOs. Government only supports the software component of training and advice and pilot with donor assisted funds and not direct construction of toilet in households, while through CLTS, so many communities have been triggered and are ODF as a result of better understanding of various detrimental issues related to open defecation.

There has also been a comparative study, being rounded up in Osun State, Nigeria in 3 communities (subsidy driven, pure ODF triggering and ODF prior to CLTS), with various degrees of lessons and outcome results.

However, there have also been several reports of FORCED COMPLIANCE as part of CLTS, aimed at recording success at all cost by programme drivers and this is a source of concern, from human rights perspective.
Femi Aluko

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 05 Jul 2013 14:56 #4947

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ooaluko wrote:
However, there have also been several reports of FORCED COMPLIANCE as part of CLTS, aimed at recording success at all cost by programme drivers and this is a source of concern, from human rights perspective.


While I agree with the general concern, shitting on the road or in a nearby bush will get you arrested and you will have to pay a penalty fee in basically every developed country (if a police officer sees you). And while that is of course not completely comparable, I don't think anyone would cry out that that is a violation of human rights.

The violation of human rights is that the person does not have access to an adequate sanitation facility, not that he or she is forced to use it.

Edit: Having the human right to an adequate sanitation facility does however not mean that the individual can keep idle and wait for the government or some other actor to build it. It does however mean that government has the responsibility to enable everyone to build one, be that through technical support, enabling supply chains, building main sewerage lines (and subsequent treatment) or even providing subsidies to the poorest.
Krischan Makowka
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Last Edit: 05 Jul 2013 15:05 by JKMakowka.

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 05 Jul 2013 15:19 #4948

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Dear Makowka,

your submission is great and understandable but social inequity ramifies the people domiciling in many rural communities where bush abounds and that is why about 22 million people was estimated to be indulged in open defecation in my country. If a police man is pressed, will go into the bush and practice open defecation.

There is minimal number of commercial defecation sites, operated through PSP while efforts is channeled towards household angle, mostly, through CLTS.

supply chain (through sanitation centres) failed previously and hardly work since you still expect the people to patronise vendors for sani wares.

its a complicated situation in terms of enforcement and management of meeting the sanitation MDGs from the human right perspective.
Femi Aluko

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 05 Jul 2013 21:35 #4951

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I am not really a fan of CLTS due to various other reasons, but if you really look at it closely you realize that it works (most of the time) because it makes people enforce compliance from others.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing as written above and also because we (you in this case) are all too quick in excusing OD behavior and blaming it on some more or less external factor like poverty etc.
The reality is however that for people who practice OD it is often simply more convenient or at least building a toilet ranks very low on their list of priorities.
Now the last part is somewhat understandable, given the stark realities many people face, but it is also true that even the most simple HH pit-latrine is an improvement over OD from a community health point of view, and that is something anyone can build for free. However unless forced to build & use one, many people simply can't be bothered.

Add to that, that a cheap and simple to build Arborloo type of latrine can actually be seen as an "adequate" sanitation solution in really rural areas, I don't see how we should continue to excuse OD behavior on the epidemic extent it is still practiced around the world.
Krischan Makowka
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Last Edit: 05 Jul 2013 22:06 by muench.
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Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 15 Jul 2013 12:03 #5048

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Dear Julius,

I think in your before last post, you do make a very important point, but I am not sure you realized this;-). In any case, I had not thought about this before, but I think it is important.

While I agree with the general concern, shitting on the road or in a nearby bush will get you arrested and you will have to pay a penalty fee in basically every developed country (if a police officer sees you). And while that is of course not completely comparable, I don't think anyone would cry out that that is a violation of human rights.


I think there is a subtle thing here that is very key to the human rights angle of this thread. The word "police officer", in "the North" a police officer is a person authorized by the society to "police", in other words: to make sure people stick to the law. It is very core to the way our society is structured. And more importantly, a core function of having a police force is to make sure people do not take the law into their own hands, which leads to a situation where the strongest person gets his or her way.

If looked at it in this way, i think I can word some of my hesitation towards CLTS as: "CLTS encourages people to police (and discipline) each other,rather then leaving this to the (theoretically) impartial state. I do think there is a serious problem with this, and even though I am not a specialist I am quite sure this does go against the spirit and possibly against the letter of the human rights conventions.

Thanks, for getting me on this track,

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Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 15 Jul 2013 17:03 #5049

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Marijn Zandee wrote:

If looked at it in this way, i think I can word some of my hesitation towards CLTS as: "CLTS encourages people to police (and discipline) each other,rather then leaving this to the (theoretically) impartial state. I do think there is a serious problem with this, and even though I am not a specialist I am quite sure this does go against the spirit and possibly against the letter of the human rights conventions.


Hmm, you are right I did not really think of this, even though I was subconsciously slightly hesitant to make that comparison.

I have to say that I agree with your insight theoretically, but such self-policing would and does happen in "western" countries too, where OD behavior is highly frowned upon and would result in expression of disgust, ridicule or worse.
And pragmatically speaking I don't see how that is not justified to some extend too, as after all OD behavior is directly detrimental to the health of all community members (and the police can't and should not be everywhere).

I guess it becomes problematic if really serious actions are taken, as in some of the examples described in the beginning and/or when power is abused by outsiders with an ODF agenda (government officials etc.).

On a quick thought, maybe it would make sense to create some sort or elected community committee to deal with conflicts arising from the CLTS process, as a sort of self-governing solution? But I guess in praxis it wouldn't make much difference as the majority could still "terrorize" a minority.

Ultimately I am however of the opinion that such extreme measures of self-policing do not happen normally, but are rather results of outside interference. An example for this would be the modified CLTS approach that includes handing out some reward after the community reaches ODF status.

P.S.: The reason I personally dislike the CLTS approach is a different one: I think in really rural areas where it admittedly works well, stopping OD is simply of relatively little concern due to low population density and largely useless in the presence of much livestock living directly amongst the people.
In more densely populated areas, CLTS becomes less and less effective due to different social dynamics, while on the other hand the public health concern becomes more stressing which ultimately should prohibit a "no-subsidy" approach like CLTS. And as explained above, including subsidies in CLTS leads to all sorts of unintended and negative consequences (which I think the original creators of CLTS realized very well).
Krischan Makowka
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Last Edit: 15 Jul 2013 17:31 by JKMakowka.

Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 24 Dec 2013 12:29 #6792

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Shaming people, especially women, to stop open defecation, has again drawn criticism. This time in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where a local government guideline promotes "tricks" to change behaviour "from catcalls to publishing names to photographing the people caught". Read "India, Madhya Pradesh: sanitation campaign humiliates women, say critics" at http://wp.me/aGBZ


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Re: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights? 24 Dec 2013 13:26 #6794

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Dear Colleagues,

Take it easy...
Don't we have all our own "human rights" on our own stupidity and ignorance?

CLTS and any of best sustainable WATSAN approaches will not change a bit on ongoing larger global developments regarding "stupidity and ignorance". I do not want to list down all the higher level odds, you know them all too.

Practicing real equal "human rights" on this higher level will abolish by it self over the time any CLTS's and others too...

All the Best
Detlef SCHWAGER

E.g.: Just one for X-mas, try to imagine by your self, what would be happen to African, Latin-American aid-workers, who maybe campaigning with TOTAL "Blame and Shame" about the many thousands of death Africans, Latin-Americans and Others in the Meditation Sea and on the US south-border throughout US and Europe... Will the Communities join them?
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