Pause before pushing more people to ODF - Indians: Save Your Country — Please Do NOT Use That Toilet

  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Hi Bracken,

Sorry for the delay in responding to your thoughtful comment.

The rush to build has created a large number of unusable toilets (negligible numbers are non-flush) and OD is the safer option. In fact, it is going to happen anyway as water shortages loom and an inability to clean these cheap toilets make them horrible.

There is no transparency in the numbers and the speed at which the financing has passed is far greater than the capacity to build toilets of any quality.

Shanti,
Rajesh

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  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Elisabeth,

Sorry for the delay in accepting your call to continue the discussion (i was in silence for a month).

Thank you for observation: "Bad sanitation can be worse than no sanitation". We are agreed on rural - OD with some followup (covering with ash, keeping sanitation areas to restrict contact, ...) is far better than badly engineered and executed toilets.

You lead to a new area - urban (or peri-urban) and i have some ideas but they are better shared in person. I am closely watching the urban landscape in India as untreated sewage by the billions of tons finds its way into every water body in the country. There are almost no public places left for people to walk, to keep their windows open, ... Mosquitos have become the rulers and people have to cram themselves into smaller spaces with walls and nets and fans and, for the rich, a/cs and air purifiers, to keep the smells and insects out.

Shanti,
Rajesh

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  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear All,

Sharing with you an email sent to me by Indukanth Ragade, author Self Reliance in Water :

I am in total agreement with you on the subject.

Defecation on water is the most lop-sided system for dealing with faecal matter in our country. Water does not do a single positive thing the treatment of faecal matter and it gets itself poisoned in the process! Our forefathers in their wisdom have stated in the Vedas that one should neither urinate nor defecate on water as it is one of the Pancha Bhootaas. Our practice of defecating on soil is the wisest thing as soil is the best treatment unit for excreta. The only relevant objection to it is the ‘lack of privacy’.

In the eco-san toilet, this is taken care of. The SBM is a colossal waste of precious money. The TV ad on the great benefits of the twin- pit latrine is a highly cosmetised one that masks all the negative aspects, because of the use of a celebrity like Akshay Kumar! SCOPE, the N.G.O. in Trichy had been propagating the eco-san toilet in villages and Mr. S, who is running it, had been even invited by the Chinese Govt. to advise them on the method. But he found that there is not much support for this method and he has now switched over to constructing the pit latrines under the Swach Bharart Scheme!

Even if a proper pit latrine is built under the scheme, when the time comes for emptying the composted faecal matter from one of the pits, there will be hesitation as one has to get into the pit to remove the composted material. I feel that this is where the scheme will stumble and crumble. In the case of the eco-san toilet, one can remove the compost standing outside the drum. Such a pity that a great opportunity to bring about a sanitary revolution in our villages has been lost.

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  • muench
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Rajesh,

You wrote: "You lead to a new area - urban (or peri-urban) and i have some ideas but they are better shared in person." Why don't you want to put your ideas here on the forum? What benefit would there be to sharing your ideas only with me "in person" rather than sharing them with lots of people online here?

In the e-mail that you copied above, the author (a male person?) said: "The only relevant objection to it is the ‘lack of privacy’.". Well that is a very real concern, especially (or only?) for woman, isn't it?! So how would that be overcome if you propagate open defecation on soil in villages and towns that are getting more and more populated and crowded? Also can you point to any success stories where villagers have changed their behaviours and are now digging small holes and covering their faeces with soil after each defecation event (the "cat method")? If that was possible it would be good, although in crowded conditions the next user may by mistake uncover the fresh faeces of someone else when they do their own little hole.

I agree in principle that "shitting into water" is a stupid idea whereas "shitting onto soil" is in theory better. But how to make it work in a more and more crowded world is the question. We are running out of space and soil for everyone to shit on soil... The ecosan toilets (UDDTs) which many of us like & favour in theory have sadly not been able to convince enough users or government officials, at least not in India, or so it seems.

I think once the pits of the twin pits are full, perhaps there will be a second push for a more mechanised way of emptying the pits, using proper equipment, pumps, hoses, gloves, masks etc. and proper faecal sludge management and treatment. At least one would hope so. The huge number of new publications on faecal sludge management (FSM) coming out of India indicate that this is happening (see here on the forum: forum.susana.org/53-faecal-sludge-management So it's not all doom and gloom, or is it?

(and I agree with the excellent points made by Patrick Bracken above, which you haven't addressed yet)

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • AjitSeshadri
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Re: Pause, suggest opt for COD , before pushing more people to ODF

Dear SuSanA Members.

In my earlier post Dtd. 5th July,2019 had suggested a revised mode of ODF ie COD. Controlled Open Defecation.

In this the people get some time before toilets be it be CTCs or individual tiolets are organised with other infrastructure Etc..

Here too, village admins have to ensure it is maintained clean and hygenically in order and spaces alternated and maintained. Night soil taken up on co composting path for re use in agri farms Etc..

Well wishes.

Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Senior Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Environment Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others) Chennai, India
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  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Elisabeth and all,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I will respond to the questions you ask in separate replies.

You wrote: "Why don't you want to put your ideas here on the forum? What benefit would there be to sharing your ideas only with me "in person" rather than sharing them with lots of people online here?"

A couple of reasons:

- A bunch of ideas that are in formative state, half-baked if you will, that need conversation, input, and collaboration. They cannot be expressed in writing clearly. When there is a conversation, there are other supports: tone, gestures, eyes, feedback, ... and so articulating in person allows an idea to form, to grow.

- A forum where most of the entries are putting forth their own ideas and experience is not the place to develop, sharpen, or bury the ideas.

- I noticed in my conversations that many people were able to state things that they would never put down. Thoughts critical of their organization, of their own funders, of governments, of the power structure, ... but would never put it down in writing.

I have put some down in writing: Two Obstacles That Have Hindered Development and tried to push a different mindset in our thinking: Vaccine Thinking v Water Thinking , but found no people who want to discuss it or even give their opinions on directions that lead away from today's established paths (for NGOs and development).

Regards,
Rajesh

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  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Elisabeth,

You wrote: "I agree in principle that "shitting into water" is a stupid idea whereas "shitting onto soil" is in theory better. But how to make it work in a more and more crowded world is the question. We are running out of space and soil for everyone to shit on soil... The ecosan toilets (UDDTs) which many of us like & favour in theory have sadly not been able to convince enough users or government officials, at least not in India, or so it seems."

In my conversations, many people state something similar to what you say, or agree with it.

So, you and the majority, maintain that we should still go ahead with building toilets and push the stuff underground and into aquifers. How to make it work is pushed into the future. For me the question is 'not how to make it work in a more crowded world', but to discuss if it is our work or what are the actual causes. That discussion has to hold some space in the rest of the discussion which is just to keep working, to keep busy, and often, just address the symptoms.

You wrote: "I think once the pits of the twin pits are full, perhaps there will be a second push for a more mechanised way of emptying the pits, using proper equipment, pumps, hoses, gloves, masks etc. and proper faecal sludge management and treatment. At least one would hope so. The huge number of new publications on faecal sludge management (FSM) coming out of India indicate that this is happening (see here on the forum: forum.susana.org/53-faecal-sludge-management So it's not all doom and gloom, or is it?"

Development efforts are filled with "second pushes", third pushes, fourth, ... MDGs, SDGs, ... Because we cannot not do anything, and patiently discuss and wait. We have funds and jobs and have been programmed to do, so our entire NGO/development sphere is filled with people who want to do something, anything, at least put in some effort. And publish results, any results, as long as it leads to continuing the status quo. And not dissect our efforts and results in the past, before embarking on our next set of DGs. In that torrent, it is very hard to hold any space to pause before acting. Address downstream problems and issues before creating them. E.g. stop polluting until we know how to fix the pollution.

In fact, by not doing something, we may create a crisis of a different type, where the people on the ground face the issue directly and can respond. They cannot respond as easily to issues that have a degree of separation such as health impacts (such as a reduction in height) from contaminated water (from what source?) and need external intervention to resolve.

The development sector has not found a model where people can hold and address their own problems, all our solutions require more solutions, more intervention, more aid in the future.

Regards,
Rajesh

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  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

joeturner wrote: "May I ask a question: Doesn't everyone accept the risk of spread of disease from feet etc from OD?

I can see that pits may indeed cause other problems - but there is good evidence that this disease transfer mechanism is reduced, isn't there?"

There can be OD practices that restrict the spread of disease from feet (human feet, there are a few publications on feet of insects). I have not seen any studies on this diseases transfer mechanism nor on how soon fecal matter becomes safe in combinations of open air and sun.

I, for one, will accept the risks of OD, over the risks (and unknowns) of using water to push fecal matter underground. Its not a popular view :( as it does lead to some self-enquiry amongst the professionals in the development sector.

Peace,
Rajesh

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  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

bracken writes: "My main issue however, is indeed this universal call for OD as a solution for rural sanitation problems. In my opinion this makes as little sense as calling for flush toilets for everyone (and what a disaster that would be!)."

I agree with you that it makes 'as little sense as ...' but when something that makes little sense becomes the entire policy of countries and finds cheerleaders in the the rest of the world, how does one hold a candle with a different light?

And, as someone asked, how does the issue get polarized? I titled the article starting with the word 'Pause'. And people are questioning that request while not questioning and, in fact, actively supporting the movement into the 'disaster that would be'.

Peace,
Rajesh

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