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

  • satyagrahi
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Pause before pushing more people to ODF

This piece has agreement from many of people in SuSanA in conversations and informal settings. However, there is great reluctance to put these thoughts in writing.

Indians: Save Your Country — Please Do NOT Use That Toilet
A plea to continue the practice of open defecation (at the very least for rural):
medium.com/@aandolan/please-do-not-use-that-toilet-2b958fd9ff67

Rajesh
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  • Ashok
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

AGREED 100%.

The problem is how to spread the awareness about it?
I have circulated a leaflet only last week in the areas where we have made twin leach pits toilets, under pressure from Govt machinery.
(leaflet attached)
Because it was distributed in Rural areas, it had to be in Hindi.

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  • AjitSeshadri
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  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Senior Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions, Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Environment Consultant located at Chennai, India
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Ashok.

We gather that there is reluctance in rural people in using toilets in villages.

At best in those sites, a different mode of OD can be done by communities.
A Controlled OD may be done at open sites having security - privacy and with open areas duly allocated for the intended use.

A similar spacial area is earmarked next to the COD site already in use, and communities alternate the uses say for 3 to 4 weeks, at each site.

When the COD site is unused, it is totally cleaned / maintained .
FS ie human sludges are removed and co-composted using bio mass and cow dung.
The compost created is used as soil enricher / manure.

When running water, power for night-lighting Etc is available, then new toilets can be built as per Govtt design at the COD sites already in use .

The COD sites on twin basis will be for use as per gender and also space allocated for specially abled citizens.

When the system is put in place, then community guided to use the toilet facilities Etc. improving the quality in living.

Well wishes.
Prof Ajit Seshadri

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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  • Ashok
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Prof Seshadri,
It is not that people are not using these toilets.
I am asking them not to use it , at least at vulnerable locations, which are more than 55% in the country.
The twin leach pit system is not suitable for us.
I am attaching an article titled
"CONTAMINATION OF CULTURE"
AND THREE SCHEMATIC SKETCHES FOR CONTROLLED DEFECATION.
I WOULD VERY MUCH APPRECIATE YOUR VIEWS ON THESE.
Ashok Kumar Jain Ph D
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Why does this has to become such a polarized discussion?

It is sad to see that apparently the Indian government has managed to implement a theoretically good idea (improve the sanitation situation in rural areas) in such a bad way that it drives well educated people to go on the barricades against it.

Microbiologist & emergency WASH specialist
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  • AjitSeshadri
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  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Senior Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions, Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Environment Consultant located at Chennai, India
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Dr. Ashok Kmr Jain.

I have seen your notings, and also the valid points raised by our Forum Members, it would be in order that certain discussions which are not positive in nature or not helping the Administration are not progressed .

At best when certain solutions or guidance is reached, then for benefit of Members, we could discuss the remediations in Forum.

Till then you may feel free to discuss with Members on their email IDs. For your info, mine is -- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. --

with 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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  • muench
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear Ajit,

I am referring to your statement of "it would be in order that certain discussions which are not positive in nature or not helping the Administration are not progressed". I am a bit confused about what you are saying here. I believe the discussion about "pause before pushing more people to ODF" is very interesting and should not be stifled. Yes, it goes against the current mainstream to say "open defecation is not per se evil" but nevertheless we should look at all aspects. I would like this discussion to continue.

Dear all,
Kris (who has also posted in this thread) had previously pointed out in some other discussions that the open defecation discussion should be seen in context - it can make a big difference if open defecation takes place in rural, sparsely populated areas or in crowded cities!

I agree with Rajesh that in rural areas open defecation with covering of the feces with soil could well be a better solution than a stinky filthy pit latrine that might be in danger of collapsing and that nobody likes to use, or a flush toilet that just pollutes nearby water sources. "Bad sanitation can be worse than no sanitation", like we discussed previously on the forum as well.

But for urban areas I cannot picture how open defecation could possibly be a workable solution. I copy a section from the blog post ( medium.com/@aandolan/please-do-not-use-that-toilet-2b958fd9ff67 ):

Very well, you may say, OD makes sense in rural areas, especially dry rural areas such as the entire Deccan plateau and Rajasthan, Saurashtra, and Kutch. Maybe even in extremely wet rural areas like Bengal where contamination can turn into a huge issue. But, you may then ask, are you advocating it for urban areas too?
That is another entire discussion. Let’s leave it for the future with one thought: should we not consider the urban toilet users, 90% of whose output ends up uncontained — in lakes, streams, and rivers — as practicing a form of OD?


What do you have in mind?

By the way, there is a term called "institutionalised open defecation" which refers to sanitation systems where the faecal sludge collected from pit latrines and septic tanks is dumped into the environment - which is in line to what you are saying. See my recent forum post about that here .

Regards,
Elisabeth

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(Funded via GIZ short term consultancy contract)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • bracken
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Dear all,
I've been following this discussion since the first post last week and I admit that at first it gave me pause for thought, then it shocked me somewhat to see a blanket call against the use of toilets.

Rajesh, forgive me, but at first your article reminded me of the anti-vaxxer movement and there are still many points in the article that seem to me to be an innocent idealisation of OD, with many unrelated factors conflated to condemn toilets in a broad and general fashion.
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!).

The key to any successful sanitation system is its appropriateness in context. If the sector has learnt anything, I hope that it is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sanitation. Context specific factors need to be used to design the system so that it fits the cultural and social needs of the users, the climatic context, the geographic and geological context, the water resources context, the financial context, the environmental context etc. etc. etc.

If we accept that the purpose of a sanitation system "is to protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease" then I think in some (and I would argue very rare) contexts, could OD be considered the best solution - however this depends entirely on a range of factors, including population density, likelihood of exposure to viable pathogens, likelihood of drinking water contamination and so on. It seems to me to be extremely unlikely that widespread OD would provide a sanitation system that could be considered fit for purpose. Large scale OD will not lead to a reduction in the disease burden of a population. Granted, the high speed construction of latrine structures may not do this either and there are surely more intelligent ways to address the issue other than centrally driven, top-down roll-outs, but for me that reveals rather a problem of process and not necessarily of principle.

Anyway, just my 2 cents worth on this.

Water and Sanitation Specialist
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  • Ashok
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

We are not universalizing OD.
All we are saying is that the leach pits should not be allowed to become a concentrated source of pollution in the areas
With high water table, Black cotton soil which does not absorb water, rocky and plateau etc.
Do not allow hand pumps or open wells closer to the pits.

Nothing more nothing less.

We can survive with OD but not without PW (Potable water).

I did a study about three years ago, which is attached for those who are interested in India
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  • joeturner
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

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?
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  • bracken
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Hi Rajesh,

There are very clear guidelines for the construction of pit latrines to ensure the protection of water resources (including respecting distances to withdrawal points, construction standards, methodologies to ensure the design responds to the needs and habits of the users etc.). When these are not respected, pit latrines can indeed become point source contaminators of groundwater and, in densely populated, can cause biological and chemical contamination over a large area. But open defecation is not a remedy to this. Following the established guidelines is the remedy to this.

The article posted by Ashok extols the "virtues" of OD. The first, that it separates urine and faeces is simply how the body works - OD just ensures that the waste lies unexposed and open to flies and contact to animals and people. The second, that it improves health is simply not true. Indeed it increases the risk of exposure to pathogens if excreta is left lying around. The third, that it saves water, applies equally to any non-flush sanitation system, of which there are plenty.

I agree that the high-speed construction of millions of pit latrines can lead to all sorts of social, environmental and health problems. I would argue that in this case providing toilets is not providing sanitation as they do not "protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease". But neither does OD, for the most part.

Water and Sanitation Specialist
AHT GROUP AG
Management & Engineering
D-45128 Essen, Huyssenallee 66-68
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  • satyagrahi
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Re: Pause before pushing more people to ODF

Hi Kris,

Sorry for the delayed reply. It has not become a polarized discussion yet! :) Yes, i used some loud headlines to draw attention the side that has no voice.

At this point the theory behind leach pit toilets should be questions in the wake of studies showing that they do not contain fecal contamination.

Shanti,
Rajesh
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