With millions of people across the country unable to access basic sanitation facilities, Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) toilets have emerged as a sustainable concept to fix the sanitation problem in India.
This year, on World Environment Day, the Kanker district of Chhattisgarh promoted EcoSan toilets, basis the theme – connecting people to nature. While there is an impetus to build toilets under the Swachh Bharat Mission, it is important to pay attention to environment-friendly setups, keeping in view the local conditions. Moreover, traditional sanitation facilities might not always be ecologically sustainable.
EcoSan toilets use less water, whereas the manure can be used for farming practices, as the decomposed faeces break down into harmless soil nutrients. Also, it is noteworthy that EcoSan toilets can provide sanitation in extreme conditions such as water scarce deserts and rocky areas where it is not possible to dig pits and sewers. It is also effective in coastal and flooded areas with very high water tables, and in earthquake prone zones where there is a danger of sewage leakage through cracked sewer lines or pits that eventually contaminate the groundwater.
In Kanker district of Chhattisgarh, EcoSan toilets are being promoted and have turned out to be successful in convincing the community as well as the district administration to adopt them. Till now 70 toilets have been constructed across four panchayats.
Another variety of eco-friendly toilet is the bio-digester toilet. It is a complete waste management solution which reduces solid human waste to biogas and pure water, with the help of a bacterial inoculum. A while ago, WaterAid and its partner organisation identified six families who were going to construct septic tank toilets, instead of an eco-friendly option. With a great amount of motivation and discussion with those six families, they were finally enthused to adopt bio-toilets. While WaterAid India provided technical support, the district administration supported the construction under Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). The latter is also providing extra incentives from the district mineral fund to cover the construction cost.
In 2008, EcoSan toilets were initiated in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh. These toilets have proved to be a great intervention, and are thus being replicated in other districts as well.