India's Sulabh to improve sanitation in 15 African countries

Indo Asian News Service

Durban, Dec 5 (IANS) Extending its footprint in the field of low-cost sanitation outside India, NGO Sulabh International is all set to improve the sanitation scenario of 15 African countries.

Addressing sanitation experts from across the world at the three-day World Toilet Summit here, Sulabh founder and renowned sanitation expert Bindeshwar Pathak said that in each of the 15 African countries, the NGO would construct five public toilets, 100 toilets in schools and 500 individual toilets.

The countries include South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Sulabh has already trained sanitation professionals in these countries.

"The situation in India is similar to the African subcontinent in matters of sanitation and Sulabh Sauchalaya Model can easily be replicated to improve sanitation facilities in these countries," Pathak said.

He offered his services to the governments of all African countries which wanted to benefit from Sulabh's expertise.

Sulabh International also urged Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to adopt the Sulabh model to fulfill his dream of providing sanitation to all.

In the target countries, 2.6 billion people have no access to safe and hygienic toilets. Sulabh planned to help in implementing its technologies in 50 countries over five years, where the sanitation coverage is less than 50 percent of the population, Pathak said.

Recycling and reuse of human excreta for biogas generation is an important way to get rid of health hazards, Pathak said, adding that the US Army had also shown interest in replicating the Sulabh public toilet system for war-ravaged Afghanistan and had asked for a detailed concept report.

Till date Sulabh has constructed and is maintaining nearly 8,000 public toilets. While maintaining the public toilets on a pay-and-use basis, the surplus income, if any, is used for socially useful activities like running vocational training centres catering to the needs of wards of scavengers, and promoting health awareness amongst slum dwellers.

Three liberated manual scavengers from Rajasthan are also attending the summit at Durban - the place synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi, who stated the crusade against racism and untouchability from here.

During their five-day stay in Durban, these women who were earlier called "untouchables" visited also visited the place where Gandhi stayed over a century ago.

Sulabh, which has liberated more than one million scavengers in the country, had launched an intensive drive in Rajasthan's Alwar district about eight years ago and finally succeeded in achieving complete eradication of age-old practice of manual scavenging from the district. Later Tonk was also selected and declared a completely scavenging free district.

The former scavengers are now engaged in small-scale industries that prepare eatables like papads, noodles and pickles. The money from the sale of the products helps the women lead independent lives.

Despite Indian laws abolishing the inhuman practice of manual scavenging, an estimated 100,000 low caste girls and women continue to manually remove human excreta in the country. Manual scavenging of human excreta was banned in 1993 by a law that also prohibited use of the unplumbed toilets that necessitate it.

Pathak founded the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation in 1970. This saw the launch of a social reform-cum-environmental upgradation movement to tackle the challenge of sanitation-related pollution that leads to environmental degradation and health hazards caused by defecation in the open and the use of bucket toilets.