Mankind has developed and witnessed multitudes of advancements, and has come a long way over few thousands years, yet it’s still to overcome the basic challenges posed by unavailability of sanitation facilities to majority of people across globe. Although, the situation has been reviewed time and again, and International institutes are constantly working to end this crisis in the developing world. The World Toilet Day, celebrated on 19th November, offers a chance to end stigma associated with human excreta and to inspire action to address the sanitation problem that afflicts a significant proportion of world’s population.
A toilet is a powerful symbol of our commitment to keep our surrounding environment clean and pristine. In fact, it is an institution that protects us from life threatening infections and diseases. It would be apt to say that no medical or scientific breakthrough in the history of mankind has done more to limit the spread of diseases and infections than the availability of toilets.
Nevertheless, toilets haven’t achieved the kind of omnipresence that they should have. According to a UN study, 60% of humanity doesn’t have access to a toilet at home. In fact, 869 million people worldwide don’t have access to any kind of sanitation facility, neither at home nor in vicinity. In India alone, 600 million people do not have a toilet at home.
Lack of improved sanitation facilities are responsible for severe health crisis in many developing countries. Poor sanitation and hygiene are responsible for various diseases and infections like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, respiratory infections, skin and eye infections. According to WHO, some 8,42,000 people in developing countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene annually. Moreover, poor sanitation is believed to be the main cause in some 2,80,000 of these deaths. In India alone, 60000 people people die from diarrhea, a preventable disease, every year.
Besides health concerns, absence of toilets in households also deprive women off their basic right to dignity. This holds good especially for women in rural India who are often forced to go to fields to attend nature’s call. However, more distressing is the fact that women are increasingly becoming targets of sexual predators who often follow the women into the fields. Unavailability of toilets should not become a reason for risking the lives of women who deserve privacy and safety from abuse.
Nevertheless, it has been noticed that even at a few places in rural India where toilets exist, they are hardly maintained and seldom used. One of the difficulties people cite in their ability to use a toilet is the absence of water facilities and those required to treat wastewater. The theme of this year’s World Toilet Day also reflects on the issue of wastewater. One of the main objectives of UN Sustainable Development Goals is to bring sanitation facilities within the reach of every individual, decrease the proportion of untreated wastewater by 50% and increase recycling/safe reuse.
The aforementioned goal can be achieved only when human excreta is contained, transported, treated and disposed of in a safe and sustainable way. This can be achieved not only by creating awareness amongst the masses but also by making investments in innovative, reliable and cost effective solutions. In India, indigenous water purification, wastewater and solid waste management technologies are being developed under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Some of the technologies developed under the auspices of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are AKRUTI( Advance Knowledge of Rural Technology Implementation), Multi Stage Biological Treatment Solution (MSBT), Radiation Hygienization of Municipal Sewage Sludge and Refuse Derived Fuel. These are some of the indigenous technologies developed by Indian institutions such as BARC to deal with wastewater and solid waste.
International and governmental agencies are working to create awareness about the importance of sanitation and adoption of technological solutions to treat wastewater and solid waste on a large scale. A lot in this regard has been achieved by the aforementioned and various other programmes. However, the success will remain elusive until and unless the initiatives are not backed up by the sensitization and participation of the masses.