Sanitation is all about human defecation and its disposal – safe or otherwise. Though we defecate in only one way, its disposal can be broadly grouped into six types. They are: Open defecation, Pit Latrines, Septic Tanks (well and not-so-well designed), Flush toilets with the sewage generated being carried in open drains, Flush toilets connected to the underground drainage system and Ecological Sanitation (ES). Except for the first and last, the remaining four ways of disposal uses water for removing the faeces, thereby generating sewage. The problem thus shifts from disposal of faeces to disposal of sewage and continues to remain a problem.
As mentioned above, ES is the ultimate in sanitation and is relevant everywhere and more relevant in habitations close to river banks and sea. Besides refraining from contaminating the water bodies it ensures that the food cycle is maintained.
The ES toilets look like ordinary toilets from the outside, differences will be noticed only inside where there are two squatting pans next to each other. One of the twin squatting pans is used continuously until the vault beneath it is about 3/4ths full of faeces, which normally takes about six months. The user urinates into the hole in front and, after each defecation, throws a cup of ash or sawdust into the chamber to cover the faeces. The user then moves backwards slightly [while still squatting] for washing. The urine and wash water holes are connected to small diameter PVC pipes which drain to the outside.
After the first pit is three-quarters full, the remaining one-fourth is filled with soil or ash and closed. The second chamber is now put into use. The faeces in the first chamber will already be partially composted before it is closed and the composting process will continue as the second chamber is used. Under most conditions, the faeces will be totally composted and safe to use after a total of nine months, but to be sure, we recommend the total process take about one year. For more details regarding the size, cost of construction etc. of ES toilets please see the write up on Ecosan in English under downloads.
Our Akash Ganga Trust has been striving hard since 2005 to sensitise people of Kovalam a small coastal town about 25 kms. south of Chennai on the East Coast Road leading to the historical town of Mahabalipuram about the relevance and importance of ecological sanitation. A booklet in tamil explaining the need, relevance and importance of ES toilets was prepared and circulated (can be downloaded). In addition to creating awareness, our trust, as a first step constructed a composting toilet in January 2006, the first of its kind in this town, as a model one in a common place. Several people from the town were shown this toilet in order to create awareness about the new concept of Ecosanitation.
In the next two years, besides creating awareness about the importance of ES toilets, our trust also offered to construct such toilets. An offer was made to construct such toilets to all those residents belonging to the fishermen's hamlet and the dalit habitation, who were willing to pay a small amount as their contribution. In December 2007, toilets for 9 households (6 from the dalit settlement and 3 from the fishermen's hamlet) were constructed from the funds received from Arghyam, Bengaluru and FAKT, Germany.
Learning about the work done by our trust in ecosan, Dave Bockmann and his wife Mrs. Yuko Nishimura, a Professor of Anthropolgy in Komazawa University, Tokyo brought funds collected by the students of that University to construct twelve more such toilets in Kovalam and fifteen toilets in a neighbouring village called Pungeri.
The second phase of our sanitation project with the Japanese group was financially supported by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) through the Institute for Buddhist Economics, Komazawa University. Construction of thirty ES toilets in a dalit settlement (Nadu Colony) of Kovalam town commenced in July 2009 and completed in November. In all sixty six toilets have been constructed during 2007-2009, in two phases.