Imagine having to worry about being attacked every time you needed to use the toilet, sending your children to a school with no toilet facilities, or risking your life to a deadly disease each time you heeded nature’s call. But that is the reality for nearly 60 percent of the world’s populations.
Most of us probably don’t think of toilets as life-saving equipment, but toilets can and do save lives. A lack of toilets is one of the leading causes of illness and death among children. There are no easy answers, but ecosan latrines are a sustainable solution.
Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) Latrines Provide Numerous Benefits
- Health Advantages
A lack of hygienic sanitation is a major cause of life-threatening diseases. Open defecation in fields, forests, open water bodies, or traditional pit latrines contaminates underground water tables. People exposed to human waste are at risk for several diseases, including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhea, worm infestation, and malnutrition. Ecosan latrines contain waste in an above-ground collection tank, keeping people free from contact with unsanitary water.
- Safety Advantages
Women without toilets at home are vulnerable to sexual violence when traveling to and from public facilities or open fields. Several women in India said when they go out in the open to defecate, boys and men stare at them, make threats, throw bricks, make lewd remarks and physical gestures, and stab them. In May of 2018, two young women in rural India left their modest homes in the middle of the night to relieve themselves outside. Like millions in India, their homes had no bathrooms. Their bodies were found the next morning hanging from a mango tree. They had been attacked, gang-raped, and strung up by their scarves. With access to toilets at home, women don’t have to fear violence to use the toilet.
- Environmental Advantages
Building ecosan latrines using ISSB technology provides an alternative to the commonly used fired brick, which currently causes severe environmental degradation due to deforestation and the destruction of wetlands. Reducing the number of bricks consumed conserves acres of trees from being cut down and used for a firing process, generating more than 20 percent waste. An ecosan toilet contains waste in an above-ground collection tank that eventually turns it into compost and organic fertilizer used by farmers.
- Employment/Educational Advantages
The ISSB construction method is easy to learn, so it provides jobs for local populations. With the purchase of additional tools, laborers can start building square or round homes, small buildings, ecosan toilet buildings, and other small structures.
- Economic Advantages
Using interlocking stabilized soil blocks (ISSB)— brick-like earthen blocks used in place of bricks in most construction applications—and concrete to construct ecosan latrines keeps the cost low (17 percent less expensive than traditional bricks) and require no firewood to cure the bricks. The concrete and ISSB construction can last up to 25 years.
Each of us has an amazing opportunity to make the world a better place. To save children from deadly diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhea, worm infestation, keep defenseless women safe from violence, and create a sustainable solution to hygienic sanitation.