Water.org: Proving itself: the ecosan toilet model

My name is Arumugam, I have two brothers and a family of my own. We all reside in Varatharajapuram village, Arasalur Panchayat, Thottiyam block. Daily, all six members of my family used to defecate in the open on the banks of Cauvery River. This place was so dirty that we had to walk on human waste. It was the worst during the rainy season.

We thought of constructing toilets at our home ourselves, but my neighbor dissuaded me by saying that building sophisticated septic tanks is very costly. At this time, Water.org and their partner, Gramalaya, organized a village-level meeting. In the meeting, they explained about ecosan* (ecological sanitation) toilets. They recommended the ecosan toilet as the best fit for our village since we are a high-water table area. I was surprised to learn that ashes are sprinkled on the feces to make it compost. In disbelief, I joked, “Who would construct such silly toilets with ash residues for covering the feces?”

Gramalaya staff told us that if we were interested, they could arrange an exposure visit to Seventhilingapuram village where another Water.org partner organization, SCOPE, had already begun efforts with ecosan toilets. We went to the village, where the local people of Seventhilingapuram showed us the models of ecosan toilets and how they changed human waste into compost manure. They took it in their hands and showed us. We also touched and saw it; it had no smell. We then accepted their idea of ecosan toilets after the exposure visit.

When I came back to the village, I discussed the ecosan toilet with my wife Vellaiammal, but she responded, “Why are you thinking like that in the modern era? There is no scarcity of water here. Ash and dust toilet concepts will not work out.” So I dropped that idea.

Later in our village, more than 15 people constructed ecosan toilets and started using them. When I inquired about their experience, they all said that it is easy and comfortable. So again, I spoke with my wife about this ecosan toilet construction. She agreed this time, on the condition that both the toilet and bathroom should be constructed in a single room. Immediately we constructed an ecosan toilet and a bathroom. Now, everyone in our home uses this toilet. Our bathroom looks beautiful as we have added showers and electric lights. And now I will make back the money I took out for the loan by selling the compost manure from our ecosan toilet or using the same for my farm lands. We are all very happy.

*Ecosan toilets: The concept behind ecological sanitation (ecosan) is that sanitation problems could be solved more sustainably and efficiently if the resources contained in excreta and wastewater were recovered and used rather than discharged into the water bodies and the surrounding environment. Ideally, ecosan systems enable a complete recovery of nutrients in household wastewater and their reuse in agriculture. In this way, they help preserve soil fertility and safeguard long-term food security, whilst minimizing the consumption and pollution of water resources.

For More Information – Water.ORG

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