Dr. P. K. Jena in Bhubaneswar, November 1, 2017: In developing countries including India, every 15 to 20 seconds, a child below 5 years dies from diarrhea caused by poor sanitation. A major portion of the health budget in India is spent on treating water borne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery and cholera.

The poor health and sanitation conditions in India are caused mainly due to human faeces getting the opportunity to pollute the water and land due to open defecation and drinking polluted water. Sanitation condition of rural India can be improved considerably by not defecating in open field and using hygienic toilets, converting agricultural and domestic organic wastes into biogas and compost and providing drinking water to all.

Nearly 70% of our populations live in rural India. Most of the rural people use open space for defecation. The germs produced in faeces cause illness which spread from person to person through touch, dust or when people cough or sneeze. The germs also spread through drinking water and also when flies sit on food. These germs create diarrhea and other air and water borne diseases.

In view of this, the Government of India is putting lots of efforts and spending huge amounts of money to provide toilets to every house with priority to make rural India clean. It is necessary to have ecological toilets for all. In this toilet, the faeces are collected in the concrete or plastic lined pits where these are converted to very good organic fertilizers after two to three years.

This manure can be safely used without any smell and health risk, to improve soil condition and provide nutrients for producing various crops, vegetables and fruits. Ecological toilets are safer for ground water contamination than other toilets because these are set up above the ground and are connected to sallow containers in the ground having a depth of 1 to 2 meters.

Faeces from the toilet pass through an inclined plastic pipe into the container which has a provision to allow only water to the soak pit in the ground. To make the toilet usable for all time to come, there should be two waste containers connected with one common soak pit for removal of water. The first container is used until it is filled up and then the toilet waste is connected to the second container. The two containers are connected with the main pipe of the toilet through two branch pipes and a valve as shown in Figure – 1.

Some soil is then added to the first container after it is nearly filled up and the faeces are allowed to decompose during a period of two to three years and then the decomposed waste is removed and used as compost. Mean while the second container is used until it is nearly filled up. This process of using two containers alternatively is repeated so that the toilet can be used by the family for all time to come and at the same time getting the benefit of converting the faeces into hygienic manures. It is hoped that, this type of system is provided to rural families, otherwise one pit toilet system after filled up, will certainly create problems for reuse.

Secondly, in rural India, the other type of waste is the organic domestic and agricultural wastes including waste biomass, rotten fruits & vegetables, animal dung etc. These wastes like faeces create a lot of environmental and health problems through flies, mosquitoes and contaminated air and water. A sustainable energy generation as (biogas) from these biomass wastes is possible through their fermentation in a closed tank. This besides protecting the health of rural people, will provide clean fuel for cooking and lighting the houses and generating high grade organic solid manure.

Every family should have a biogas plant which is very easy to construct and operate. It is a big vessel made of concrete or plastic with provision for feeding the chopped wastes at the top and an out let for biogas at the top and another outlet in the bottom for removal of the solid waste. In this plant, anaerobic fermentation of organic wastes produce biogas and solid manure. This system while providing the energy for cooking and lighting and organic manure for the crops, can keep the rural India clean. Usually biogas contains 50 to 80% of methane and between 15 to 45 % carbon dioxide along with small amounts of oxygen, nitrogen and trace gases. This biogas can supplement or replace the LPG gas being provided to the families for cooking.

Thirdly, large sections of rural India do not get clean drinking water during most of the time in the year. People drink polluted water from rivers and ponds and suffer from various types of water borne diseases. Therefore, in addition to provisions for toilets and biogas plants for every family, the rural India should have the facility of bore wells at suitable places in order to avail sufficient drinking water throughout the year.

By proper management of the faeces and other organic wastes and providing drinking water, it is possible to keep the rural India clean and healthy. Let this mission be carried out on priority basis with the involvement of people, state and central governments and social workers.