Thursday, 14 September 2017

Defecating Outdoors

Nearly a billion people still defecate outdoors, world wide of which half of them live in India.The problem isn’t just a lack of toilets—it’s a lack of toilets that people want to use. The results in millions of deaths and disease-stunted lives.

  • Defecating in the open is as old as humankind. 
  • As long as population densities were low and the earth could safely absorb human wastes, it caused few problems.
  • In rural India outdoor defecation is considered the manly thing to do. 
  • Open defecation, as strange as this may sound to Westerners, offers young women a welcome break from their domestic confines and the oversight of in-laws and husbands.
  • In rural northern India open defecation is more prevalent than in the south, where people express a keen preference for relieving themselves outdoors. It’s healthier, they feel. It’s natural and even virtuous. Many rural Indians consider even the most immaculate latrine religiously polluting; a toilet near the home seems more unclean to them than answering the call of nature 200 yards away. Flies, however, can travel more than a mile.
  • Pit latrines have a huge drawback: They fill up. And rather than empty a pit with a shovel or hire a pump truck or easier still to dig a new latrine, rural Indians, especially in northern India, often opt to build no latrine at all.
  • Privately constructed pit latrines were four to five times larger than the 50 cubic feet recommended by the WHO. That’s the size used all over the world and a family of six won’t fill it for five years.
  • In recent years Dalits struggling for equality have begun to shun the sorts of jobs historically used to justify their oppression. And so the cost of emptying a pit latrine has risen as demand for the service has outstripped the supply of willing workers. Given this fraught social and economic landscape, some rural Indians save enough money to build a latrine pit so big (~1000 cft) they’ll never have to empty it. Or that most of them who could afford a simple latrine, choose to conduct their business in outdoors.
  • Diseases caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water kill more children.
  • In 2015 the United Nations called for an end to open defecation by 2030. 
  • In India, open defecation got reduced from 75% to 44%, in the past 25 years.
  • The health toll in India is staggering. Diarrhea kills many children under age five each year. Millions more struggle on with chronically infected intestines that don’t absorb nutrients and medicines well. Underweight women give birth to underweight babies, more vulnerable to infections, more likely to be stunted, and less able to benefit from vaccines. 
  • In 2016, 39% of Indian children under age five were stunted.

Sanitation is more important than independence ... Mahatma Gandhi

Simple pit latrines though not fully sanitary are simplest, cheapest and are the most common form of latrines. Despite its disadvantages like odor and fly and mosquito nuisances they are promoted to discourage open defecation and other unsanitary practices. Although expensive, the flush latrines and sewers require running water, which many parts of India still don’t have. With education and affluence these things will vanish over time and in the meantime government should focus more on running water supply, sanitation and sewerage lines which are essential for flush latrines without which what ever is talked is just publicity and political gimmick.

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