Monday, December 26, 2005

India's struggle with Hygeine

An average person visits the toilet 2500 times a year. About 6-8 times a day,we end up in spending about 3 years of our life in the toilet.

This is what I learnt from WTO (World toilet organization) website. WTO celebrate November 19th as World Toilet day. The purpose of this day is to have people to increase awareness of toilet user's right to a better toilet environment, and to demand for it from the toilet owners. It's high time that average Indian should demand a basic if not better toilet from their civic rulers.

If we look at Indian statistics, only 30 percent of India's 1 Billion population have bathrooms in their homes or easy access to public toilets. No more than 250 of the country's 4,000 cities and towns have sewer systems and many of those systems do not have treatment plants. In Mumbai, situation is acute with nearly 50 % population living in slums that have no toilets in their homes. The British built the first sewerage system in India in 1870. After 130 years, out of 4,500 cities only 232 are sewer based. Only 20 per cent of the urban population has septic tank toilets.

With nearly 700,000 Indians deprived of basic toilet facilities, India should treat Nov 19th as another day of freedom struggle from hygiene. Many years ago, an American friend from echocardiography (ultrasound for heart) manufacturing company whose single product would cost in excess of US$100K commented “Bombay doesn’t need $ 100,000 machine but needs 100,000 toilets”. How apt his observation was !!

The manner and with ease people in India relieve themselves in the open – along the roadside, farmland, railway tracks, water pipelines and municipal parks is indeed amazing. There is neither fear of law enforcement agencies nor shame of being seen by others. I have had opportunity to some of the poorer countries in Asia and Africa but I haven’t come across such phenomena with gay abundance anywhere else as in India.

Bulk of municipal sewage in Mumbai flows untreated into the sea and our pollution board doesn’t grant permission to build a bridge citing that bridge would endanger marine life !! We have some finest monuments and yet public toilets that stand next to them are filthy and atrocious. When we visit palaces and forts in India we are amazed by their beauty in terms of planning and executing things. At the same time when we step outside these places we are saddened by the fact that we spit and piss around the very monument that we treasure.

Prahlad Kakkar, who made Bumbay, "a film about shitting in the metropolis." Kakkar explains, "Half the population doesn't have a toilet to shit in, so they shit outside. That's five million people. If they shit half a kilo each, that's two and a half million kilos of shit each and every day. The real story is what you don't see in the film. There are no shots of women shitting. They have to shit between two and five each morning, because it's the only time they get privacy." He ridicules the World Bank's proposal that the government build 100,000 public toilets. "I have seen public latrines in the slums," he writes. "None of them work. People defecate all around the toilets, because the pits have been clogged for months or years." So nauseating, and crude but that’s reality

World Toilet Organization (WTO) has started World Toilet College (WTC) to ensure that the best standards in Toilet Design, cleanliness, Maintenance and Sanitation Technologies with training courses in toilet designs Course and Ecological Sanitation Course. With nearly 700,000 Indians without basic toilet facilities, India should seek for a permanent seat of this Hygiene Security council of WTO and I am sure there wont be any opposition to this.

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