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Positive news. Happy Stories. Unsung Heroes.

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    A group of volunteers in Mumbai got together and undertook the beautification of Sion Railway Station. And the results are beautiful. According to Gaurang Damani, founder of Die Hard Indian, the railways has given permission to a non-profit venture to adopt a railway station, for the first time ever.
    "We had taken up King's Circle Station. Based on its success, we took up Sion station, which is next to Asia's largest slum - Dharavi. We thought if we can clean up Sion, we can get success anywhere in India," he says.
    Gaurang and other volunteers, from corporates, schools, NGOs etc., started the cleaning project in December 2014. Every weekend, they get together to clean up railway stations. The volunteers remove posters and banners stuck on the walls. They also scrape the walls clean and paint them. Diehard Indian provides materials like paint, brushes, primer, etc. to the volunteers. The volunteers also do a bit of gardening around the stations. People traveling by trains can see the difference in Sion and King's Circle stations. The cleaning in these two places has been undertaken in various phases by as many as 600 volunteers.

    Here are some pictures from the Sion Railway Station beautification:

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    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).


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    Indo-Canadian Girish Agarwal scaled the heights of Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money to build clean toilets in Indian schools. To say that Girish Agarwal scaled mountains to raise money for sanitation of Indian schools would not be an expression of exaggeration. The 45-year-old Indo-Canadian businessman did exactly that: he climbed Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, on February 29, and raised Rs 40 lakhs for the sake of children’s dignity.

    In a campaign that he calls “Summit for Dignity”, he aims to raise money to build toilets for Indian schools.

    [caption id="attachment_49799" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Girish Agarwal Girish Agarwal climbed Mt Kilimanjaro on February 29. Source: Facebook.[/caption] He focuses on funding toilets in schools specifically, disturbed by the thought of children having to defecate in the open. “Imagine going to school and having to find a place outside, in the street, to go to the bathroom,” he says on his Facebook page, “Imagine being an adolescent girl in that situation. There is no privacy and no dignity. And it's enough to stop many girls from attending school.” A 2011 census report found that about 600 million people do not have access to clean toilets. In Indian schools, the sanitation situation is horrendous. About 45% schools do not have adequate facilities. Clean School guidelines (a set of rules issued after the Prime Minister pushed for building more toilets in schools in 2014 through the Swachh Bharat campaign) state that there should be one toilet for every 40 students.
    Some schools, with more than 250 students, have just one toilet, with no gender segregation. The toilets get soiled after repeated usage and don’t get cleaned enough. Children are exposed to infections and diseases that could be easily prevented if they had clean toilets. School dropout rates are directly related to its lack of facilities. For instance, 200 girls dropped out of a Jamshedpur school, citing lack of proper toilets as the reason - the school and its hostel had just five toilets for its 220 hostel dwellers.
    Agarwal had dreamt of climbing the celebrated mountain for around 16 years. Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, however, is also a risky feat, at 5900 metres high. With a rough terrain and steep paths, his family and friends were cautious about letting him take up the challenge. “But they relented when they knew how committed I was,” he said to Times of India.

    To take up this enormous challenge, Agarwal adopted a rigorous schedule to keep himself physically fit.

    [caption id="attachment_49802" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Girish Agarwal Girish Agarwal at Mt Kilimanjaro. Source: Facebook.[/caption] "I am not at all a morning person and I work late into the night. So the first challenge was to get up early everyday to train. My wife, Shruti, helped me with my diet. My friends used to take me for runs in the freezing Canadian mornings." Agarwal, who was listed in Calgary’s Top 40 under 40, and Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants, also received an Investors Group’s Gold Medalist award. Today, he lives in Canada and has four toilets in his house. But, his life was not always luxurious like it is now. He was born in Mumbai and lived in Delhi.
    “Even though, our parents did their best, we lived in poverty. We received various levels of support from our neighbours, relatives, and friends. I am grateful to my parents for not compromising on my education, despite everything," he said.
    He has tied up with Aga Khan Development Network, which has facilitated building of toilets in various countries. Agarwal’s target is to raise roughly Rs 1.67 crores. He says on his fundraiser page that he plans to “build 100,000 household toilets, 528 school toilet blocks and 26 community toilet complexes.”

    It’s a huge dream that he hopes to achieve, one mountain at a time.

    [caption id="attachment_49800" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Girish Agarwal Source: Facebook.[/caption]

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).


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    India’s sanitation crisis is immense and not easily solved. Over 600 million people in rural and urban areas defecate in the open.  The nation cannot incessantly wait.  Two recently developed solutions may help. The magnitude of India’s sanitation crisis may be summed up in one sentence: two-thirds of urban residents do not have toilets and access to the sewer grid, and over 600 million people in rural and urban areas defecate in the open.  Where the grid does not serve toilets, faeces is periodically collected from unsustainable septic tanks and pit latrines to be discarded in open areas, landfill sites, lakes, and freshwater sources.  The tragedy of our commons therefore multiplies manifold, as do health consequences.

    Health costs associated with poor or unavailable sanitation cost the nation 6% of her GDP.

    [caption id="attachment_49966" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Smart ‘Plug & Play’ Toilet Units Are Hygienic, Self Contained and ‘Green’ Smart ‘Plug & Play’ Toilet Units Are Hygienic, Self Contained and ‘Green’[/caption]
    Photo: smartbox.ae

    Unplanned Urbanisation, Catch-up Network

    India proposes to address the sanitation crisis head on.  Through the Clean India Initiative launched last year, more than 10 million toilets are proposed for construction.  The initiative also aims at elimination of open defecation in another four years.  The question here is not ‘why’, it is ‘how’. In following the beaten path of the sewer grid, developing nations confront three southern limitations.  First, urbanisation beats network growth big time.  No city in India offers a ubiquitous grid; less than half of Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad have plug-and-play toilets.  The wait for the grid is at least two generations long.  This is akin to a doctor informing a patient with palpitations that he or she will have to wait for thirty years for an appointment!  Do this to 600 million people and you can only imagine the magnitude of the sanitation crisis. This brings us to the second limitation.  Tax redistribution at the going rate is grossly inadequate.  While urban India needs to invest USD 40 billion over twenty years on the grid, USD 825 million per annum was budgeted by all levels of government for the past five years on sewer connectivity.  To this, one may add USD 75 million through the Clean India cess introduced nationwide from the November 15, 2015.  India cannot possibly consume generations in waiting?  How about urbanisation accruing 300 million more residents in twenty years?  The network will therefore always play catch-up; how soon is anyone’s guess but everyone’s hazard! Third, the nation has its urban public finance strategy amiss.  Property tax, the local revenue mainstay, merely accounts for about half a percent of national GDP and cannot finance the sanitation needs of the nation.

    Two Sustainable Solutions

    The nation cannot incessantly wait.  Two recently developed solutions may find mention here.

    The first, the DRDO Bio-Digestion Toilet, a serendipitous innovation born from the need for sanitation for army personnel in the Himalayas, was not invented to address the civilian sanitation crisis.

    [caption id="attachment_49974" align="aligncenter" width="680"]Bio toilets Bio toilets[/caption] Soldiers stationed in the high altitude regions of Siachen and Ladakh need toilets and sustainable disposal of human waste.  Scientists at DRDO (Defence Research Development Organisation) chanced upon a strain of bacteria, Psychrophile, on a scientific expedition in Antarctica in the 1990s.  They brought home a strain of the bacteria and subsequently developed a microbial consortium comprising four clusters of bacteria from Antarctica and other low temperature areas. Following research, the consortium was introduced in their makeshift toilets in Siachen and Ladakh. As these bacteria thrive in extreme temperatures, the experiment succeeded and was emulated, but largely within the confines of the army establishment.  It was not until 2012 that the technology gained ground elsewhere, including in the Indian Railways. Introduced into a chamber constructed below the water closet, the self-sustaining bacteria feed upon the faeces; the anaerobic process degrades the matter within 48 hours.  These odour free, water-sealed, off-grid toilets are a sustainable alternative to septic tanks and pit latrines, the mainstay of sanitation in the south.  The small one-time price to procure the inoculum (Rs. 6,000) possesses the potential to transform Indian urban space.

    More than fifty developers have signed up to build these toilets in various parts of the country, and retrofit septic tanks and pit latrines sustainably.

    [caption id="attachment_49967" align="aligncenter" width="554"]Illustration of an off-grid toilet Illustration of an off-grid toilet[/caption] At about the same time the DRDO toilet was available for civilian use in 2012, a retired Chief Engineer from Andhra Pradesh, M Dharma Rao, developed an affordable alternative.  The inoculum is replaced by a handful of earthworms that generate compost from faeces.  Mr Dharma Rao has constructed a few hundred of these toilets in Hyderabad. Six months of toilet use produces a bucket (10 litre capacity) of compost, thus rendering the toilet maintenance free.  Mr Dharma Rao’s innovation scores high on the sustainability index; importantly, the toilet is affordable and costs less than Rs. 12,000 to build. There probably are more undocumented solutions.  Exasperatingly, the sanitation crisis has not yet attracted the imagination of the global talent pool to develop lasting, affordable solutions.  India may want to scale up manifold innovations such as discussed. If the years 1974 and 1989 marked important contributions from the south for mobility (Mayor Jamie Lerner’s design of the Bus Rapid Transit System for Curitiba) and municipal budgeting (Participatory Budgeting in Porto Alegre), the year 2016 should be earmarked to develop affordable, sustainable, and scalable sanitation solutions.  We cannot afford to not rid settlements of unsustainable pit latrines, septic tanks, and open defecation. - MS Raghavendra
    Featured Image Source: sanitationupdates.wordpress.com

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).

    About the author: An urban planner by learning and alumnus of Cambridge University, MS Raghavendra teaches at Administrative Staff College of India and may be reached at m.raghavendra@gatesscholar.org

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    Coimbatore City is on a construct-a-thon to build toilets through a unique crowdfunding initiative, Toilet First. In Tamil Nadu, it is a tradition to celebrate 80th birthdays like weddings. It is charming to see grandpas and grandmas exchange garlands and cherish their togetherness, which has lasted for decades. One such old couple in Coimbatore decided to celebrate the occasion like no one else probably has – by helping build toilets.

    They donated Rs. 2 lakhs to the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation’s Toilet First initiative, which is on a mission to make Coimbatore free of open defecation.

    TF5 Eleven hundred students (and counting) from various colleges are volunteering to build these toilets brick by brick. Danseuse Mridula Roy has committed to contribute to build one toilet every month. Corporates and other organizations are funding the initiative too. Coimbatore’s Municipal Commissioner, Vijayakarthikeyan, says every day he receives at least two cheques towards Toilet First. In short, thousands of people from different walks of life are coming together to make Coimbatore open defecation-free. What’s special about this initiative? The Toilet First initiative works on a very unique idea, arguably the first ever in India, a crowdsourcing model to build toilets. In Swachh Bharat, the funds for building toilets come in portion contributions – from the Swachh Bharat fund, from the state governments, from the local civic bodies, and from the beneficiaries. While the first three fund sources are available, the last part where the beneficiary has to contribute is where the catch lies. How do you get the toilets built when the families cannot afford to contribute their share? That’s where the smart move of crowdsourcing comes in from Coimbatore’s Municipal Corporation. The team, led by the Municipal Commissioner Vijayakarthikeyan, has formed a nonprofit body called Toilet First, which pitches in to make up for the deficit amount through crowdsourcing. The team has gone all out – with an impressive website and a catchy logo, a full-fledged social media campaign, and tremendous amount of local involvement.

    By opening up the project to the crowd, the team has ensured that it is not just money that is pouring in, but great support and involvement from people all over the city too.

    [caption id="attachment_50953" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Coimbatore Municipal Commissioner Vijayakarthikeyan (Center) with the volunteer team Coimbatore Municipal Commissioner Vijayakarthikeyan (Center) with the volunteer team[/caption] Toilet First has become the mobilizer of a fast paced movement to build toilets in every household in the city of Coimbatore. How fast paced you may ask? Toilet First, which is just one-and-a-half months old, has already built 600 new toilets in households in the city. The city has mapped the households that do not have toilets and got applications to build 2500 toilets. To reach this target, the team is literally on a construct-a-thon for toilets. The Toilet First army of volunteers, involving students and the public, is getting together to build toilets overnight. The team is taking up a construct-a-thon challenge to build 1000 toilets within 72 hours in the month of May – a feat that Coimbatore will take great pride in. As a demo towards the construct-a-thon, 50 toilets were built within 72 hours in Kalapatti. With regular construction and the construct-a-thon, the first phase target of 2500 toilets will be completed in the next couple of months, says a very confident Commissioner.

    The team is backing up its efforts with a strong awareness campaign that is spreading the word about the need for hygienic habits.

    [caption id="attachment_50951" align="aligncenter" width="540"]A happy beneficiary of the Toilet First initiative A happy beneficiary of the Toilet First initiative[/caption]

    Apart from volunteering by students and citizens, there is some serious learning that is also happening here. Toilet First gives opportunities to civil engineers to get hands on experience in construction through this project.

    [caption id="attachment_50952" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Students can be seen busily working on construction sites before and after their college hours. Students can be seen busily working on construction sites before and after their college hours.[/caption] They supervise the work, coordinate with the labourers, and even dirty their hands with hands on construction work. On a daily basis, they update the team about the progress through a dedicated Toilet First app. Toilet First’s motto, “Let's Fund Together, Build Together, Unite Together,” is in many such ways bringing Coimbatore together as a city, beyond achieving its Swachh Bharat goals. Featured Image Credits: Covaipost.com

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).

    About the author: Ranjini Sivaswamy is a freelance writer and one of the first team members of The Better India. She comes from a mass communication background and is currently a consultant with IIM Bangalore.

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    Suriya Ansari, a former engineer, is helping improve the health and sanitation conditions of rural India with a simple, cost-effective toilet solution. Ever so often, life takes an unexpected turn. You might find yourself speeding down the expressway to professional success one day, only to meander through the scenic route to self-fulfilment the next. Whatever the destination, it is the journey that counts, a fact that young Suriya Ansari can attest to. Suriya worked with an MNC as a hydro turbine product design engineer for two years before the routine of a corporate job got to her:

    “I thought that if I completed my engineering and found a good job with an MNC, I would be happy. That was the plan. But I was not. I realised I wanted to do something more with my life,” she says.

    [caption id="attachment_55273" align="aligncenter" width="284"]edited Suriya Ansari[/caption] Suriya quit her job and spent a year travelling before she came across the SBI Youth for India Fellowship, a 13-month-long programme that gives young people in India an opportunity to work on rural development projects with experienced NGOs. “I decided to take it up and see where it would lead me,” she says. Suriya requested that she be allowed to work on the solar project with Barefoot College: “I felt that I could apply myself best in the area of renewable energy,” she explains. But, as luck would have it, the project had already been taken up by another Fellow. On the look-out for a project, Suriya stumbled upon inspiration in Tikwada, an hour’s journey away from Tilonia, Rajasthan, where she was posted:

    “I was conducting a survey on rain water harvesting in the village when I realised that the toilets in the school were in a poor condition,” she says.

    [caption id="attachment_55238" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]Suriya discussing the toilet with residents of Tiloynia Suriya discussing the toilet with residents of Tiloynia[/caption] “It was around the same time that they were implementing the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan,” Suriya remembers, “so I asked the people whether they were facing any problems and why.” Suriya found that few people could afford to build toilets, even with the subsidies:
    “Many of them are daily wage labourers who earn Rs. 200 or Rs. 300 a day. As long as they have work, they have money. On the days that they don’t, they are often struggling to make ends meet. Many of them told me, ‘From where do I get money to build a toilet when I cannot even feed my family?’”
    There was also a lot of pressure on the communities. “They were told that their pensions would be stopped, that their NREGA jobs would not be given to them or that they would not get the rations,” Suriya recounts. This forced them to take on loans at high interest rates, pushing many families into financial distress. “Additionally, water scarcity is a big problem here,” Suriya says. “The water that the village gets is barely enough. They are often forced to spend about Rs. 12,000 and get in tankers once a week.” “For them, using this water in the toilets becomes an additional burden on an already strained resource,” she explains.

    “I also realised that while there was a lot of work being done on the rain water harvesting front, no work was being done on the sanitation front because of the water scarcity. That’s when I decided to plan my project around sanitation,” says Suriya.

    [caption id="attachment_55242" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Suriya with labourers outside the pilot toilet in TIlonia Suriya with labourers outside the pilot toilet in TIlonia[/caption] There were a couple of hits and misses along the way before Suriya finally chanced upon a solution that would answer all of Tikwada’s concerns. “A friend told me that Gram Vikas was already working on a low-cost toilet solution in a tribal district in Odisha and that they were very successful. It was the ‘twin-pit pour-flush’ system.” Suriya, who had already been researching the model, was given a chance by Barefoot to visit Odisha and see the model at work.

    After her visit, Suriya set to work on the prototype in December, 2015. By the end of January, the prototype was functional in Barefoot’s mess in Tilonia.

    [caption id="attachment_55239" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]Work begins on the prototype Work begins on the prototype[/caption] The ‘twin-pit pour-flush’ model not only addresses the cost and water issues faced by most of rural India, but does so while meeting international standards of health and hygiene as well as quality. Explains Suriya: “The toilet pan, the pits and the junction chamber are the three elements of the model. The toilet pan connects to two external pits via the junction chamber.”

    The toilet pan used is called a ‘deep rural pan’ and has a steep slope so that gravity can work its magic, and very little water will be used – and needed – in the flush.

    [caption id="attachment_55237" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]Laying of the 'deep rural' toilet pan at Kotri Laying of the 'deep rural' toilet pan at Kotri[/caption] “Regular flush tanks use about a bucket of water per flush. This model uses only one or two mugs of water per flush,” explains Suriya. On flushing, the refuse makes its way to one of the two pits. “The pit is covered and sealed. It is also not plastered and kept kaccha. We call this a ‘leak pit’ since all the liquid leaks into the soil and is absorbed by it. The remaining sludge gets converted into manure after two years.”

    The pit helps keep the toilet from smelling, as was often the problem with the dry toilets in use. It is also the most hygienic and eco-friendly way to get rid of the refuse since most villages lack a proper drainage system.

    [caption id="attachment_55236" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]Construction of the pits at Kotri Construction of the pits at Kotri[/caption] “Pit 1 is used for the first two years, after which Pit 2 is used, allowing the sludge in Pit 1 to convert to manure over the two years. After using Pit 2 for two years, you switch back to Pit 1,” explains Suriya. “The longevity of this model is greater because you can alternate between the pits.” Suriya also made modifications to the original model: “In the Odisha model, when the time comes to switch from one pit to another, it is done manually. People dislike this, and if they don’t switch pits, it defeats the purpose of the model. So to tackle this problem, I used a simple solution: a valve that closes the entrance to one pit and opens it for the other.” Yet, perhaps most remarkable of all, is that this eco-friendly toilet solution costs little more than half the cost of a regular toilet.

    “A regular toilet comes up to around Rs. 50,000. This one comes up to around Rs. 28,000,” Suriya says.

    [caption id="attachment_55240" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Suriya working on the Kotri toilet Suriya working on the Kotri toilet[/caption] Despite the low cost, Suriya believes that the only way to ensure that toilets are viewed as a boon and not a punishment is if governments and NGOs get together to offer interest-free 'Water and Sanitation Loans.'
    "The Swachch Bharat Campaign can be a real success only when the community is given the power to decide what design requirements fit in their budget," Suriya explains. "It should be a bottom-up approach so that this can be sustainable."
    Already, the eco-friendly model has caught the interest of a community in Kotri where Suriya, a volunteer, two labourers and a mason set up a toilet in just 10 days.

    “The people in Kotri thought that given the cost of the project, the toilet and structure would be of poor quality. Now they believe that it is the best toilet in the area.”

    [caption id="attachment_55235" align="aligncenter" width="334"]The toilet at Kotri The toilet at Kotri[/caption] More than 80 women are all set to benefit from the construction of this toilet. It has also attracted people from nearby villages who have approached Suriya with requests to build toilets in their communities. “We have received some requests to build household toilets as well,” she says. But finance is proving to be the biggest obstacle. “Raising funds is taking a lot of time,” confesses Suriya. “Whenever I get the funds, I build the toilets. But it has been slow.” Despite the many twists and turns life has taken to get Suriya here, her journey has not only impacted her but the lives of those around her as she slowly but surely improves the health and sanitation conditions in rural India.

    Interested in applying for the Youth For India Fellowship?

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    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).


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    Microfinance is helping mothers in rural Tamil Nadu secure the health and safety of their children by financing the construction of toilets in their homes In India, more than 60% of the population does not have access to toilets. With the Swachch Bharat Gramin Mission sweeping through towns and villages of the country, this number is slowly changing. However, while more houses are constructing toilets, open defecation continues to be a growing problem, proving that changing deeply entrenched hygiene practises takes more than just money and infrastructure. For some women in rural Tamil Nadu, the health and safety of their children has proven to be all the motivation they need to not only construct toilets, but to use them as well. Deepa Arivlagan is a resident of the village of Rethinampillai in Tamil Nadu. Like most new mothers, Deepa goes about her day with her one-year-old clinging to her side. Happy to be in his mother’s loving arms, the little boy smiles, gurgles and squeals. The two are clearly inseparable. Before, Deepa and her family were forced to walk long distances to use the government-constructed public toilet. The toilets were often crowded or dirty and although Deepa and her husband put up with it, they began to worry about the impact it would have on the health of their five-year-old daughter and their one-year-old son.

    Desperate to secure the health of her children, Deepa decided to build a toilet in her home.

    [caption id="attachment_56237" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Deepa Deepa with her one-year-old son in front of their recently constructed toilet[/caption] Banumathi Rengar lives in Keelakottamedu village. She and her husband work as daily wage labourers to give their three teenage daughters a better quality of life. With no access to a toilet, the family was forced to defecate in the open fields where they had to put up with insects, animals and the risk of disease. Defecating in the open also proved to be a growing safety concern for the girls, who could easily fall prey to molesters and rapists. In the name of modesty, women often wait to relieve themselves until the veil of darkness falls, but these hours only made Banumathi more nervous.

    The need to protect her daughters drove Banumathi to build a toilet: “I decided that no matter what, we had to build a toilet,” she says.

    [caption id="attachment_56238" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Banumathi Banumathi in front of the toilet she built to ensure the safety of her teenage daughters[/caption] When Mangaiyarkarsai Shankar moved to the village with her husband and her four-year-old daughter, she was surprised to see that her new home didn’t come with a bathroom.
    “I’m from a town so I’m used to following healthy sanitation practices. When I moved to my husband’s village and there wasn’t a toilet, it made me very uncomfortable. We decided that we needed to build a toilet here quickly,” Mangaiyarkarasi explains.
    Like mothers everywhere, Deepa, Banumathi and Mangaiyarkarsai too would go to great lengths to ensure the health and safety of their children. For these mothers in rural India, where good hygiene practises are not the norm, building a toilet is yet another way to express their love towards their children. Since the launch of the Swachch Bharat Mission Gramin (SBMG) in 2014, the government, along with a few NGOs have sponsored toilet building activities in rural areas. The government was also promoting individual household latrines under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, the predecessor to the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan. As a result of these initiatives, the percentage of rural families with access to toilets has increased from just 22% in 2001 to almost 50% in 2015. Today, villagers can even apply for a Rs. 12,000 incentive for construction. These three mothers are demonstrating that microloans can change the face of sanitation in India. Deepa, Banumathi, and Mangaiyarkarasi all learned about the microfinance institution (MFI) Gramalaya Urban and Rural Development Initiatives and Network (GUARDIAN). It was thanks to this institution that they were able to take out loans to build toilets in their homes. While the women may say that necessity is what forced them to construct these toilets, it is clear that they went through this trouble for more personal reasons. Today, Deepa and Banumathi are proud that their children will grow up with access to proper sanitation. Banumathi rests easier knowing her daughters will no longer face the risks associated with open defecation. All mothers want to give their families a good life. The expenses of raising a child in this and day however, are significant. Toilets may not always be the top priority, but with microfinance, they become much more attainable. The value of a toilet goes beyond environmental concerns and health benefits - it provides people with a more dignified way of living. Amongst motivated and empowered women in rural Tamil Nadu, love is beginning to manifest itself in the concrete seams and porcelain slabs of a new bathroom. These mothers are changing the status quo of sanitation and providing their children with better health, safety, and dignity. Do you also want to cover inspiring stories of change and make some substantial difference in the social sphere? Then click here to join the Milaap Fellowship Program.

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).

    About the author: Shalini Kannan is a Fellow with Milaap, working with Milaap's partners and borrowers, bringing back stories of hope, resilience, and change from Tamil Nadu.

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    According to UNICEF, around 595 million people in India, which is almost half of it’s population, practice open defecation. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, started in October 2014, aims to change all that. Several celebrities (Vidya Balan is one such) as well as the general public have been campaigning for the construction of toilets in the rural areas of India. Now, it seems that Rajasthan has caught up on the activity as well. Kanti Lal Rot, a daily wager from Dungarpur district who lives with his mother, wife and children, was inspired by the movement.

    Hearing about the campaign from local activists, he set out to build a toilet for his home, and even went to the lengths of selling his cattle and mortgaging his wife’s jewellery to complete the construction work!

    Toilet in India Picture Source
    Kanti was also told by the activists that he would receive an award of Rs. 4,000 each from the centre, state and the municipality, giving him all the more incentive to construct a toilet. After receiving the first installment, Kanti, along with a few local labourers started digging and made a basic structure. But midway into the construction, he faced a challenge. The first tranche had been used already, and work was in danger of being stopped. But rather than giving up, he sold his goat for Rs. 5000, and mortgaged his wife’s silver jewellery to complete the construction! On coming to know that he had funded the toilet on his own, officials felicitated him and gave him another Rs. 4000 to pay off his mortgage. It's stories like these that give hope for a cleaner and healthier India!

    Like this story? Or have something to share? Write to us: contact@thebetterindia.com, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia).

    About the author: Varun Jadia is a high schooler who has just completed his Class 10 boards. He enjoys listening to music, playing his guitar, playing badminton, writing and reading. Math is his favourite subject, and in the future, he wishes to pursue a career in economics.

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    According to recent estimates, around 100 million people in India do not have access to clean drinking water and more than 600 million do not have access to toilets and other sanitation facilities.

    Anoop Jain, a graduate from Northwestern University, USA, aims to change all that. A former, engineer, he quit his job in 2009 to follow his philanthropic passions.

    [caption id="attachment_61651" align="aligncenter" width="321"]Anoop along with villagers at a water ATM Anoop along with villagers at a water ATM[/caption]
    Photo source: Sanrights.org
    He raised $30,000 to build a community soup kitchen to help Tibetan refugees in north India. It was there that he realised the importance of improved public health as a means of empowerment. He continued working in rural India before reaching Bihar, where SHRI (Sanitation and Health Rights in India), formerly known as Humanure Power, was formed.

    The organisation builds free-to-use public toilets in Bihar. These toilets then use the methane gas produced to purify drinking water, which is supplied to several hundred people at a nominal cost.

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    Photo source: Sanrights.org
    His organisation also works alongside the community to combat other sanitation related problems. SHRI currently has four facilities, and they aim to build two more by the end of this summer. Apart from helping in sanitation in the state, SHRI also employs only the poorest of people to construct their facilities. Not surprisingly, Jain has won many accolades for his efforts in the field of sanitation. He is in the list of Forbes "30 under 30" social entrepreneurs. He is also pursuing his doctorate in public health at the University of California, Berkeley. His free-to-use toilets are already reaching out to the poorest sections of people in Bihar. The toilets receive a traffic of around 3000-4000 people everyday. Moreover, they also distribute 100,000 litres of clean water through their water ATMs every month! You can visit his website to donate to the cause: http://www.sanrights.org/

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    A manual scavenger's son, Bezwada is fighting to eliminate this demeaning profession from its roots. He has organised rallies, filed PILs, approached policymakers, and says he will not rest till the last manual scavenger quits the profession. Read more. Born to parents of the Thoti caste, a historically discriminated against and untouchable caste in India, Bezwada Wilson was witness to the troubles of scavengers ever since he was a child. His father was a manual scavenger, as was his brother who worked with Indian Railways for a few years.
    “I was 13 when I discovered that my parents and my brother picked human waste for a living. That was a shocking revelation for me. My friends in school would tease me. When I asked my parents what they did for a living they would try to hide it from me. But when I finally became sure of our background, I wanted to die,” he says.
    [caption id="attachment_21180" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Bezwada Wilson, the man behind Safai Karamchari Andolan. Bezwada Wilson, the man behind Safai Karamchari Andolan.[/caption] As Wilson grew older, he graduated in political science and became more involved in various youth related programs. He observed that many kids drop out of school and end up becoming scavengers. Born and brought up in a Dalit community in Karnataka, Wilson decided to eradicate this inhuman practice from its very roots. Manual scavenging is still in practice despite the ban in 1993 as per 'The Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act,1993.’

    Dedicated to working for the betterment of this community, which is engaged in an occupation that involves cleaning dry latrines and carrying human excreta, Wilson started a war against employing people as scavengers.

    [caption id="attachment_21178" align="aligncenter" width="720"]n Odisha - pictures from the movies "Marching towards Freedom" by Gopal Menon In Odisha: a still from a film Marching Towards Freedom by Gopal Menon[/caption] In 1995, he kick started the Safai Karmchari Andolan (SKA) to liberate people from this degrading occupation and enable them to live with dignity. Started in Karnataka, the movement is now active in 25 states of India. From organising rallies, spreading awareness, mobilizing people, and helping scavengers get better jobs, Wilson has left no stone unturned to empower lakhs of people who are still involved in manual scavenging.
    “The biggest challenge is that the community is so embarrassed that they don’t even want to talk about it. Bringing them together is the first step,” he says.

    SKA has a strong network of over 6,000 volunteers; they initiate discussions to help scavengers understand their rights and exit options, available rehabilitation schemes, and other financial support sources.

    [caption id="attachment_21179" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Wilson's team organizes various rallies to raise their voice against this profession. Wilson's team organizes various rallies to protest against this profession.[/caption] Narayanamma, who too was a manual scavenger once, is a perfect example of the impact SKA has created. After she became associated with SKA, she not only got the courage to say no to this demeaning job but also found new livelihood options like driving an e-rickshaw. In 2003, Wilson filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court, showing that all Indian states, as well as the government departments of Railways, Defence, Judiciary and Education, were violators of the Manual Scavenging Prohibition Act. The PIL brought the issue sharply into focus.

    Over 15 lakh people were involved in manual scavenging in 1996. It is due to Wilson's tireless efforts that the numbers came down to only 2 lakhs in 2013. And he is determined to bring this figure down to zero.

    [caption id="attachment_21177" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Wilson is on a mission and says he won;t rest till the last manual scavenger i eliminated. Wilson is on a mission and says he won't rest till the last manual scavenger is out of this profession.[/caption] Many other organizations and states have replicated SKA’s model. Those who have quit this filthy job have been rehabilitated through other employment opportunities, mainly in the field of sanitation.
    “Because they have done this for their entire life, they cannot think of doing anything else. Even if they want to get out of this, they are unable to do so. They need a push and SKA is trying to give them that,” Wilson says.
    Wilson’s fight does not end here. He wants to eliminate scavenging and sanitation work from the Dalit community and abolish the caste system that still prevails in the country.
    “I will make sure that not a single person in the country has to do a job like this,” he concludes.
    With Wilson’s continuous efforts and policy intervention, we hope to see this 'national shame' soon fade away from India. To know more about Wilson's work, check out the website of Safai Karamchari Andolan.

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    A woman from Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh has set an example for her community by gifting a toilet to her son's bride on the occasion of their marriage. Sk. Shamsun and her family members had to go into open areas to answer nature's call in Bollavaram village of Muppalla Mandal in Guntur district. But, inspired by the Prime Minister's Swachh Bharat Mission, Shamsun decided she was not going to let her daughter-in-law suffer the same indignities she had experienced when she got married.

    When her son Sk. Shahjahan married Salma, a brand new toilet awaited the bride when she came to her husband's house.

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    "I never had access to a toilet in my father's home, nor in my in-laws' home," Shamsun told Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin. "I cannot even talk about the monsoon months and the hardships that the season represented for us women - to answer nature's call."
    Shamsun also said she felt extremely humiliated when people visited her home but stayed only a short while because there was no toilet. She recollected a painful incident when a relative from Dubai refused to stay at her home for the same reason. Shamsun finally got the toilet she wanted about eight months ago with the help of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “”I gathered all the information I could about the construction and disbursement of incentive amount through instalments,” she said. Next, she pooled in Rs. 4000 of her own money with the government incentive to finance the construction of the toilet. Salma, the daughter-in-law, is pregnant now and Shamsun is extremely happy with her decision to have built the toilet. "I do not want to put her health at risk," she said. The entire family uses the facility now. Shamsun plans to ask Salma's family to build a toilet for their daughter to use when she goes home.
    Feature image credit

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    A 16-year-old girl, whose father refused to build a toilet for her and her mother, received a surprise gift from panchayat officials who built her a toilet in one day.

    Sunitha, of Kukkodu village near Mudigere in Karnataka, had been trying to convince her father to have a toilet constructed at home. But her father, an alcoholic who would drink his earnings away, was hostile to the idea.

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    Frustrated by the situation, Sunitha spoke with a visiting team of panchayat officials, led by Taluk Panchayat executive officer M.N. Gurudath. They tried to convince Sunitha's father Sheshe Gowda to use funding from the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to build a toilet. But Gowda refused, leaving his daughter in tears.

    “We were moved by what we saw. We decided to do it ourselves. We collected tools from the neighbourhood and started digging work and summoned the material needed. The girl left for her morning class. When she returned, the toilet was nearly ready,” Mr. Gurudath told The Hindu.

    “Using a couple of masons, we laid the foundation and completed the walls. I will never forget the joy in her eyes when she saw it,” added Gurudath. He and the other officers have pooled in their personal funds to cover the Rs. 22,000 cost of building the toilet, leaving the Rs. 12,000 subsidy granted under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for Sunitha's education.

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    Four students living in the Nagapattinam District of Tamil Nadu crowdfunded money from their classmates to build a toilet for their friend who did not have this facility at home.

    Vaseegaran, Rahul, Naveenraj and Harish are students of Class 8 at the SK Government High School in Thethakudi South Village.

    toilet for classmate They were extremely disturbed to see that their friend and classmate Agathiyan, who comes from a very poor family, was frequently falling sick and missing school. He had even developed a skin disease on his foot. All this was being caused by lack of sanitation facilities in his home. So, the four friends decided to take matters into their own hands. They raised money to build a toilet for Agathiyan from among their classmates at school. To save expenses, they decided they would do the actual construction work themselves. They were encouraged in their efforts by their teacher Veeramani, who also helped them organise an Independence Day rally to raise awareness about the importance of sanitation and health and having a proper toilet at home. These four boys have set an example for others in their community and hopefully more and more people will now make the effort to construct toilets in their homes.

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    The monsoon season brings with it a variety of diseases, many of which are spread because of small but deadly insects. This guide will help you keep insects away from your home. India, especially during the monsoon season, sees many cases of people falling sick from a variety of insect-related diseases like dengue, malaria, chikangunya and more. Ants and cockroaches are also unsanitary, especially when you’ve got young children or elders at home. But how do you get rid of these pests while trying to commit to an organic, chemical-free lifestyle? Here is I Say Organic's Insect Repellent guide - an easy way for you to shoo those winged and multi-legged visitors out, naturally and gently.

    Ants in your pants?

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    Image Source: Pixabay
    God, we hope not! Ants are amazing little insects, able to carry up to 10 times their body weight but we’d prefer that they carry themselves out of our homes. Step 1 - The first step is to keep your surfaces and kitchen counters clean. Try a mix of vinegar and lemon or eucalyptus oil, which will leave surfaces sparkling, as well as ant-repelling. Step 2 - Ants not deterred? Try lining entry points, undersides and corners with thin lines of citrus oil, lemon juice or even cinnamon. Step 3 - Cucumber peels or slices are natural deterrents. Peel the cucumber, create a flower with the peel if you like, securing it with a toothpick. This also ensures that you eat cucumber regularly! Step 4 - If you must keep certain foods outside, build a moat around them by setting them in a shallow pan of water. Step 5 - Create your own ant bait. Mix 1 teaspoon of boric acid (a compound that naturally occurs in nature and is easily reproduced) and 6 tablespoons of sugar in two cups of water. Soak cotton balls in this mixture and place them in areas frequented by ants. Do be careful to ensure that children don’t eat these; they aren’t toxic but might cause mild irritation. The boric acid is carried back by ants to their nest and over a couple of weeks or so, they will stop coming back to your house.

    Mosquitoes? Marigolds to the rescue!

    marigolds-740440_960_720
    Image Source: Pixabay
    Painful, red, swollen bites? Not anymore. Mosquitoes are most rampant in the rainy season, when large tracts of exposed water lead to their breeding. Step 1 - The most important thing is to clear gutters, window ledges and terraces of standing water, as regularly as possible. Step 2 - Planting marigolds near windows and doors is a great idea,  the flowers repel mosquitoes very well. Step 3 - You can also use dabs of natural neem oil, and moisturise your skin as well, to great effect. Step 4 - Essential oils like basil, lavender and peppermint are also great at repelling mosquitos. Whether you plant a sapling or spray yourself with a mix of water and essential oil, you’ll be bite-free.

    Roach Repellers

    Cockroaches might survive a nuclear war, but that’s no reason to harbour them now. Cleanliness is next to cockroach-freeness – soap and water are your primary defences against them. Dustbins should have close-fitting lids and ideally, waste should be disposed of as soon as possible. Step 1 - Cucumbers work on cockroaches too – so get peeling. Step 2 - Bay leaves and garlic pods also deter cockroaches. Get creative with little garlands or toothpicks pierced through bay leaves, pods and keep them in the corners. Step 3 - Boric powder is a solution when your infestation is extreme. When consumed, it dehydrates roaches and thus kills them. Boric powder should be kept out of the reach of children, so place it only in high places.

    Make flies and fleas, fly and flee

    basil plants
    Image Source: Flickr
    Flies and fleas are quite difficult to force out of the house. These little winged creatures are found around food or on pets, and are a bane. Your best resource? Plants like mint, basil and citrus. The essential oils will work as well, but are not as fuss-free. Step 1 - Vacuum and clean carpets and curtains ever so often. Step 2 - Bathe pets with mild soap and comb out as regularly as advisable. Step 3 - Bay leaves, cloves and eucalyptus hung at doors or windows also repel flies. Step 4 - Make sure that food or fruits aren’t left out for too long; use netted lids and baskets.

    Lizards

    It’s silly but this reptilian-looking creature terrifies us as much as we terrify them (we’re guessing). And God help us all when that tail falls off! Here are a few fool-proof ways of dealing with them. Step 1 - Empty egg shells are magic. Colour and paint them from the outside and hang them in corners, doors and windows and poof! Lizards gone. Step 2 - Peacock feathers are also a great way, given that the peacock is a natural predator of the lizard. Plus, they’re gorgeous! And at last, just one more I Say Organic tip: Use a mix of vodka and essential oil while making sprays. Why alcohol, you may ask. Because it evaporates, leaving behind only the essential oil, and thus you’re left with a clean, effective bug spray. Until next time. Enjoy the monsoon rains! :) To explore a wide range of fresh organic produce and learn more about how and where it's grown, log on to www.isayorganic.com or call 011-41087447

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    As Kerala makes headway in becoming 'open defecation-free’, agents of change in the state assume a critical role in the mission. The Government of Kerala has declared the state will become 'open defecation-free' (ODF) by November 1, 2016, coinciding with Kerala Piravi Dinam or "the birthday of Kerala."

    To complete the construction of nearly 2 lakh toilets, across 941 panchayats, in one of the most populous states in the country with a challenging geographical terrain and demographics, is indeed a daunting task.

    [caption id="attachment_69972" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]untitled-design-17 Training being imparted by Costford team on how to use reinforced bamboo for toilet walls in tribal areas[/caption]
    Source: Costford
    The construction of toilets in hamlets in remote hilly areas of the Attapadi region in Palakkad district, and coastal areas such as Alappuzha district, presents not only enormous technological challenges but is expensive as well. “Grama panchayats are playing a pivotal role in this. They are driving this project along with other local bodies and self-help groups,” Shri K.T. Jaleel, Minister for Local Self Governments, told The Better India (TBI). “The Kerala government is taking a proactive role. While the Swachch Bharat Mission will provide the funds, fund transfer will take time. Panchayats have been advised to use their own development funds in order to meet the deadline,” says Shri L.P. Chither, Project Management and State Nodal Officer for Swachch Bharat Mission. Suchitwa Mission, the state nodal agency for sanitation, and Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan are implementing the plan. Funds are disbursed through the agency to local bodies. Kudumbashree, a community network that works in tandem with local self governments for poverty eradication and women empowerment, has joined hands with Suchitwa Mission to train women in the construction of toilets. “Kudumbashree is the main ground level resource and many of our activities are carried out by them. In Kerala, almost all the women belonging to the lower income group (LIG) belong to Kudumbashree. Most of our beneficiaries would also belong to Kudumbashree. We reach them through this network,” says Dr. K Vasuki, Executive Director, Suchitwa Mission. Historically, the tribal areas have been outside the realm of development. Pipelines have not reached the hamlets and water is scarce. Women often have to carry water for their domestic chores and for use for defecation of others.

    Even where there are toilets, they have fallen into disuse as many village elders prefer open defecation. Meanwhile, the depleted forest cover makes it difficult for women to defecate in the open.

    [caption id="attachment_69974" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Completed toilet, Panayam GP, Kollam Completed toilet, Panayam GP, Kollam[/caption]
    Source: Suchitwa Mission, Government of Kerala
    “In 2014, faced with severe malnutrition and high infant mortality rates, we had started community kitchens in the Attapadi block, which is inhabited largely by tribal communities. At that time itself, we realised open defecation was a serious health issue,” says Dr. Seema Bhaskaran, COO Attapadi Comprehensive Tribal Activity Development Project, National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). “There are several cultural issues as well. Even if they have toilets, many don’t use them. In some tribal hamlets, if a father-in-law uses a toilet, then the daughter-in-law cannot use it. That is why we are focusing on community toilets, separated by gender, in such areas where there is water facility – where they can wash their clothes, bathe the children, etc., and thereby reduce the burden on women,” reveals Dr. Bhaskaran.

    Roping in change agents is crucial to making the ODF mission a true success.

    [caption id="attachment_69977" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]Rural Sensitization Camp By students of Rajagiri College, Attapadi District Rural Sensitization Camp By students of Rajagiri College, Attapadi District[/caption]
    Source: Suchitwa Mission, Government of Kerala
    Recognizing the need for behavioural change in tribal areas, it is essential to utilize the services of Kudumbashree and neighbourhood groups for continuous interpersonal communication. This will help create awareness regarding the ill-effects of open defecation.  “We will continuously engage in this educational process in each hamlet, which will culminate on December 10, 2016, International Human Rights Day,” says Dr. Bhaskaran. The NRLM is, in fact, taking a larger view. Construction work, hitherto under the control of contractors, is now being taken up by the tribals themselves. “Livelihood for the tribal youth is a huge issue. Many are unemployed. This is the first time the construction work will be done by them. Until now, only contractors have undertaken such jobs and exploitation of workers has been rampant.  Currently, the direct involvement of the community has led to huge confrontations. Despite this, we hope to finish training by September 19, after which construction will commence,” reveals Dr. Bhaskaran. In the coastal areas, change management activities are being activated through several NGOs. Field level volunteers create awareness by visiting people door to door. The ODF mission can be successful only if various stakeholders keep up the momentum.  “We are working with Costford, an NGO that has developed new low cost construction technology. We engage with students of social work colleges who conduct surveys and campaigns in difficult areas. We have identified 39,120 toilets in critical areas, which cost more. Additional funds are required. Hence, we are trying to get CSR funds. Some companies have supported us, such as Malabar Group. Some local cooperative banks and resorts in the coastal areas are also coming forward,” says Sri. Ameersha R. S, Programme Officer (CCDU), Suchitwa Mission. “Right now, we are training a group of women masons identified by Suchitwa Mission, in low cost construction methods using indigenous materials such as bamboo reinforced with mud. We have already started our training, mainly in Attapadi in Palakkad district and Thrissur district so that the tribal communities can start the work soon,” says Mr. Sudhir, Member of Costford. When TBI contacted The Malabar Group, Mr. Valeed, Head of CSR, elaborated, “For the ODF initiative, we are providing septic tanks and WCs. We work with the block level samitis. While the beneficiaries and requirements are identified by them, we support in kind - as long as our criteria of the beneficiary’s land and house size is met.” Students of social work are working hand in hand with local bodies doing ground work, creating awareness and running campaigns. In some areas where the terrain is not easily accessible, transportation of materials is not only difficult but expensive as well. “Students have transported bricks and cement and have even supported the initiative by digging pits, clearing the area, etc,” says Shri Chither. Dr. Anish K R of Rajagiri College, speaking to TBI, explains the role their students play. “The Association of Schools of Social Work in Kerala has 46 member-colleges across Kerala. Every district has been linked to a school of social work and they align to the planned programs. Our students went door to door to verify the authenticity of these applications and reports. Once these toilets are built, the challenge is to make them use it. Behaviour change work is next and we will contribute as we are advised.” “We have supported in terms of field verification in the Peermade Grama Panchayat in Idukki District. Our students verify whether households have sanitary latrines or not to rule out any false applications,” reiterates Dr. P. Saleel Kumar, Assistant Professor, Marian College. Enormous efforts from several tiers will be required to complete the project on time. While the government is confident of meeting the deadline, the need of the hour is to bring about change in behaviour and practices. It is heartening to see a multi pronged approach involving the state government, administrative bodies, NGOs, corporates, student communities, and self-help group groups to ensure this happens.

    Like this story? Have something to share? Email: contact@thebetterindia.com, or join us on Facebook and Twitter (@thebetterindia). To get positive news on WhatsApp, just send 'Start' to 090 2900 3600 via WhatsApp.

    About the author: Rati is a qualitative researcher by profession, with a deep love for travel, people, art and culture. In her spare time she likes to read books set in cross cultural backdrops, write on socially relevant topics and run marathons

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    In Sikkim's Basilakha village, residents proudly escort visitors to their toilets, before posing happily for a photoshoot with a lavatory in the background. Basilakha is not an exception.

    In this small north-eastern state, people have a sense of pride that their home state is India's first open-defecation free state.

    [caption id="attachment_70440" align="aligncenter" width="630"]sikkim-1 People in Sikkim[/caption]
    Photo Source
    This record was reiterated in the recently conducted Swachhta (cleanliness) survey undertaken by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) on the condition of sanitation in Indian states. According to the report, all four of Sikkim's districts rank among top ten districts in cleanliness and sanitation. About 98.2% households in Sikkim are equipped with clean toilets and 100% of the state's population use the community or household toilet. Sikkim began its cleanliness drive over a decade before Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission. It was 13 years ago in 2003 when the Pawan Chamling-led government launched its total sanitation campaign for the state. The state government began by sensitizing people to adopt a holistic approach that would improve hygiene and sanitation, protect the environment and accelerate overall development in the state. Next, it constructed 98,043 household latrines, surpassing its own target of 87,014. Of these, 61,493 latrines were built for below poverty line (BPL) families.

    There was also a conscious effort to install public filters for drinking water, build more public toilets and introduce a better drainage system in the major cities like Gangtok and Namchi.

    [caption id="attachment_70438" align="alignnone" width="1024"]mahatma-gandhi-road-gangtok M G Marg, Gangtok[/caption]
    Photo Source
    As many as 1,772 schools were covered under the total sanitation campaign. This was done under the central government's Nirmal Bharat sanitation drive.The government also got local panchayats involved to sensitise people, particularly about hygiene and the fact that Sikkim needed to maintain a clean and green image as a tourism state.
    Next, the Sikkim state government made it mandatory to have functional sanitary toilets at home for candidates filing nominations for contesting panchayat elections. A functional sanitary toilet in the household was also made mandatory for availing any kind of benefit and grants from the government.

    The campaign also included door-to-door campaigning and working with school children to convince families about the health benefits of using toilets.

      [caption id="attachment_70443" align="aligncenter" width="1191"]On the birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, (who was an Indian Philosopher, Economist, Sociologist, and Political Scientist) National Sanitation Awareness Campaign under Swachh Bharat Mission organized by Rural Management and Development Department (RMDD) got underway at Titanic Park in Sikkim on 25-09-15. Pix by UB Photos National Sanitation Awareness Campaign organized at Geyzing[/caption]
    Photo Source
    The first acknowledgement of the campaign's success came in 2008, when Sikkim was declared a ‘Nirmal Rajya’, a national award for sanitation and cleanliness. For the Sikkim government, the next endeavor was to focus on sustainability and qualitative improvement with special focus on school sanitation and solid-liquid waste management.


    Under the School Sanitation & Hygiene Education programme of TSC, the special sanitation needs of women and adolescent school girls were addressed by making a gender sensitive school sanitation programme. This was done by introducing sanitary napkin dispensers and disposers on a pilot basis in  schools, covering two schools per district. In these schools, every adolescent girl child could get a sanitary napkin by inserting a Rs 2 coin into the vending machine. Simultaneously, the used napkins could be incinerated in the disposer installed in the toilets of these schools. Furthermore, handbooks on waste management and hygiene management for adolescent girls' have also been introduced in schools.

    With these pilot projects eliciting an encouraging response, more schools are being covered with such facilities in the next phase.

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    Photo Source
    Sikkim's cleanliness model has evolved over the decade to ensure that the people abide by rules. There is a strictly enforced, legal penalty for every violation - for using plastics, for smoking in public places, for urinating in the open and for littering. Breaking rules fetches stiff fines. Smoking in public place, for example, could cost the offender a fine of Rs 200, whereas urinating in public places has a fine of Rs 500. Along with the ban on plastics, these rules have been enforced in the state for over a decade now.
    However, the government knows that there is more to be done. While plastic packets are now rarely spotted, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles are still sometimes thrown by tourists. To address this issue, the government is contemplating a complete ban on such water bottles. This will compel locals as well as tourist to use the RO or filter water made available in designated public places, hotels and restaurants. Once executed, it will be another first in India.
    In 2016, Sikkim also became the first Organic State of India, having shunned chemical pesticides and fertilizers for 13 years to return to natural methods of farming.

    While Sikkim has clearly emerged as the cleanest state, it also has the possibility of soon emerging as the first state in India with zero poverty - only 8 % of the state's families live below the poverty line.

    [caption id="attachment_70445" align="aligncenter" width="1479"]west-sikkim1 Community Sanitation Campaign in West Sikkim[/caption]
    Photo Source
    Speaking about the state's 13 year old cleanliness campaign to Economic Times, Sikkim CM Pawan Chamling says,
    "When I see the Swachh Bharat campaign in such a big way across the country, I feel vindicated that I did something right back in 2003."
    Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim, Prem Das Rai adds,
    "Sikkim has clean food, clean air, and clean water. We are also a fully organic state. So, there is clean living. Because there is clean living, people in Sikkim are healthy and happy."
    While the government's efforts in helping Sikkim achieve these remarkable targets is commendable, the commitment and self-imposed discipline of the Sikkimese people also needs to be appreciated.
    In a school in West Sikkim, innovative children are showing their communities how to manage waste by recycling plastics into useful items of daily life. Here is a glimpse of this great initiative.
    [embedvideo id="hYG8_3CAEnA" website="youtube"]
    Also ReadHow Kerala is Getting Ready to Become an ‘Open Defecation Free’ State by November 1

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    A report from 2011, claims that only 12 % of India’s 335 million women use sanitary napkins while menstruating because of lack of access to good quality and affordable menstrual care products . A major reason for this is the fact that pads are generally manufactured using expensive machinery, which makes them unaffordable for many women living in rural India.

    In an attempt to address this issue, a product driven startup called Saral Designs developed machines, which they designed in-house so that they can start manufacturing good quality sanitary napkins at the decentralised level.

    saral-2 The machines are easily replicable and can be set up within Rs. 10 lakh. This means that such units can be set up across India without middlemen. IITians Suhani Mohan and Kartik Mehta founded Saral Designs in June 2015. Suhani says, “While conducting some research in this field, we found out that 23 % of girls in India dropout from schools once they start menstruating due to the lack of proper facilities. They resort to using unhygienic material, which leads them to contracting reproductive tract infections. A lot of government schools and NGOs are creating awareness about hygienic menstrual practices, but the challenge is finding good quality products. Small-scale manufactures produce inexpensive pads but the material they use isn’t very good. And the number of pads that they make isn’t enough to sustain the costs borne by the company for electricity, manpower etc,.” The Saral team is made up of  nine young engineers from IITs, NITs and BITS Pilani and has around 15 people working on production and local sales. Suhani thinks of that their background in learning technology has been very useful in developing an easy to replicate, low-cost machine for producing sanitary napkins. She says, “We managed to make a machine that produces high-quality pads 30 times faster than the average. Our product is called Aisha Ultra XL, which are “ultra-thin pads with wings” and they are sold at Rs. 30 for a pack seven. The price is pretty low compared to other rival brands. We’ve been producing these pads for nine months and have managed to sell more than 2 Lakh pieces so far.”

    But aside from selling their products at pharmacies, the Saral team has reached out to women in living in villages in Maharashtra as well.

    aisha Suhani says, “We have a team of 20 women, who go door-to-door and make girls aware of safe menstrual practises. They also let the girls try our products and sell it to them on a monthly basis if they like it. Additionally, we have distributed vending machines in schools and colleges across Mumbai.” The Saral team has also started partnering with NGOs in Karnataka and Chhattisgarh to make pads accessible to young women in remote villages. One such organisation is Shiksharth, an NGO working in the tribal dominated area called Sukma, Chattisgarh. With this partnership, they hope to educate 1000 girls about menstrual hygiene practices and provide them with one year’s worth supply of sanitary napkins. So, how this partnership happen? Suhani says, “In 2015, I met Ashish Shrivastava, the founder of Shiksharth while doing my Acumen fellowship. The Acumen fellowship is run by a US-based organisation that conducts fellowship programmes for leadership development. When Ashish did his Teach for India fellowship, he realised that girls in India, don’t drop out of school as much in urban areas as they do in tribal areas after they start menstruating. So he decided to move to Chattisgarh where this situation is very critical and set up a school. He’s fighting to convince families to let their daughters finish their education. We know that education is a way out of poverty and violence. Also, there is a need to remove the taboo around menstruation around such areas. So, we decided what better way to help these girls than by teaching them good practices and providing them with sanitary napkins.”

    The Saral team will train volunteers in Shiksharth to teach the girls in two batches -- the first would be made up of students between 6th-10th standard and the other will have students between 8th-9th standard.

    saral3 The curriculum for hygienic menstrual practices includes modules on reproductive biology and other relevant information about keeping their bodies clean while they are menstruating. Suhani says, “We’ve included information from UNICEF and Menstrupedia in the curriculum. But we also try and remove local superstitions/taboos surrounding the topic through playful intervention in the form of games and questionnaires. If we manage to successfully train the volunteers at Shiksharth, it would mean that our project would be sustainable over a long period of time as well.” You can help 1,000 girls in Sukma continue their higher education despite having their periods, by donating here.

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    NGO Shramik Bharati is empowering women in the slums of Kanpur to become community leaders and lead the movement for a clean, open defecation free India. Kanpur, the largest city in Uttar Pradesh, is the hub of industry and a thriving urban centre. The civic amenities here, however, have not been able to keep up with the scale of expansion, as thousands make their way from the hinterlands every year, in search of work and better prospects. About 25 percent of the population resides in congested slums and other informal settlements that have sprung up around railway tracks, on pavements and near the Ganges. Census Data reveals that, in the absence of adequate sanitation facilities, at least 41, 757 households in urban Kanpur defecate in the open. Yet, if women like Sangeeta Awasthi, Kalpana Anand and Kiron Srivastava have their way, then at least their neighbourhoods will soon be open defecation free. These committed community leaders are also working hard to ensure availability of clean drinking water in their shanties.

    No one understands the pain and shame that comes with open defecation better than Awasthi, 35, who lives in a slum at Baba Ghat, flanking the Ganges.

    [caption id="attachment_73282" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Sangeeta Awasthi, 35, is a responsible community leader, who has taken on the task of ensuring proper sanitation and water supply in her slum at Baba Ghat, flanking the Ganges in Kanpur. Sangeeta Awasthi, 35, is a responsible community leader, who has taken on the task of ensuring proper sanitation and water supply in her slum at Baba Ghat, flanking the Ganges in Kanpur.[/caption] Two decades ago, when she got married to Rajendra, little did she know that she would have to go through the daily humiliation of relieving herself in public.
    “If I had known that they [her husband’s family] did not have a latrine, I would have never married him,” she laments. “It is disgusting that while, on the one hand, elders of the family insist that daughters-in-law cover their heads even within the confines of the home; while on the other, they don’t flinch when they tell them to lift their saris and squat in the open for ablutions.”
    For the longest time, Awasthi compromised on her dignity. After all, her husband’s meagre salary as a school peon was just enough to make ends meet and pay for the education of her two sons. But things changed sometime last year when Shramik Bharti, a Kanpur-based non-profit organisation that works on issues of poverty and women’s empowerment, came to their area to speak to the residents about the need for building toilets and securing their right to potable water. An inspired Awasthi decided to start off on 'Mission Sanitation' from her own home. She made up her mind to get a latrine built, even if it meant saving money to build it, at the cost of her other needs. “I realised that, for me, there was no greater need than having a toilet at home,” she remarks. When she finally got a toilet built, after seeking government subsidy and assistance from Shramik Bharti, she decided to step out and tackle some of the other serious sanitation concerns faced by her community. Even as she spoke to her neighbours about availing benefits under the Swachh Bharat Mission to build toilets, this determined woman decided to focus her energies on resolving a critical problem - water supply. With only two handpumps in the slum, one of which remained non-functional and the other only pumped up dirty water, women spent the better part of their day figuring out ways to not only store enough water, but to also make it fit for consumption. “We had no option but to use that filthy water,” she reveals, “We used to strain it through a muslin cloth and boil it before drinking.”

    Conscious of the dire situation, Awasthi took matters into her own hands; she went door-to-door to convince families to join her in finding a viable solution.

    [caption id="attachment_73283" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Sangeeta Awasthi speaks to her neighbours about availing benefits under the Swachh Bharat Mission to build toilets. Sangeeta Awasthi speaks to her neighbours about availing benefits under the Swachh Bharat Mission to build toilets.[/caption] She suggested that each household contribute money so that they could get one broken-down handpump restored and re-bore the other. After much effort, 13 families came on board, contributing Rs 50 each, enabling her to get the required repairs done. At the same time, Awasthi also met with the Corporator, a local member of the municipal corporation, and demanded that piped water supply be made available to them. Within two months, the civil work was done and today, all 85 houses in the community are enjoying piped water supply. As a responsible community leader, Awasthi attends every meeting called by the administration or Shramik Bharati to discuss any development work concerning her slum. Presently, the biggest issue for them is the shortage of space for individual toilets. In fact, that proved to be a major challenge for Kalpana Anand, 33, too, as she took up the cause in her Ambedkar Nagar slum in Vijay Nagar area of Kanpur. Like Awasthi, she wasn’t happy to discover that her marital home didn’t have a toilet. “I used to curse my destiny as I was forced to defecate in the open,” she says. By the time Anand was 21, she was already a mother of four daughters and as her girls grew up, her worry about their safety and health only increased. She was fearful because she was aware of the risks of going to isolated places at odd hours to relieve oneself. Constructing a toilet at home was always beyond their reach as her husband, Ram Bharti, is a small-time tailor. But after sitting through a meeting organised by Shramik Bharati, she realised that she could easily get one constructed with the Rs 8,000 incentive provisioned under the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).Not only did she apply for it, she started motivating others to follow suit.

    With no sewage lines or toilets around, there was a lot of work to be done before the female inhabitants of Ambedkar Nagar would be free of having to defecate in the open, but Anand spearheaded the campaign in a sustained manner.

    [caption id="attachment_73281" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kalpana Anand, 33, has spearheaded a campaign against open defecation in her Ambedkar Nagar slum. Kalpana Anand, 33, has spearheaded a campaign against open defecation in her Ambedkar Nagar slum.[/caption] She encouraged 97 families to fill up the form for availing the incentive; of these, 45 have individual toilets now. “I do not handle the money but facilitate in filling up forms and the purchase of building material at cheaper cost,” shares Anand. As the news of sanitation work in Ambedkar Nagar slum travelled to other areas, people started asking her to intervene in their localities as well. “I have understood that awareness is the key to bringing change,” she observes. Indeed, that’s the approach that Shramik Bharti has adopted wholeheartedly. It has created teams of dedicated field staff that are deployed in the six zones of Kanpur Municipal Corporation as well as the city’s Cantonment Board. Each zone has nearly 80 slums or slum-like localities. Officially, though, as per the list of District Urban Development Authority (DUDA), there are 412 slums in Kanpur. “Our objective is to develop citizen leaders like Awasthi and Anand and accordingly, we have designed the awareness and advocacy programme,” explains Rakesh Pandey, Chief Executive Officer, Shramik Bharti.

    Another leader who is creating quite a stir is Kiron Srivastava, 19, from Shivraj Singh ka Purva. When most of her friends are indulging in “fun” activities, this teenager is busy solving water and sanitation issues.

    [caption id="attachment_73280" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Kiron Srivastava, 19, from Shivraj Singh ka Purva has not only motivated 200 of the 260 households in her neighourhood to avail of government subsidy for toilet construction she has also submitted an application for building a sewer line. Kiron Srivastava, 19, from Shivraj Singh ka Purva has not only motivated 200 of the 260 households in her neighourhood to avail of government subsidy for toilet construction she has also submitted an application for building a sewer line.[/caption] She started working as a community volunteer when she was only 16. She says, “When I had first heard the didis from Shramik Bharati talk about sanitation, I was drawn to the discussion as I felt that associating with them would give a meaningful direction to my life.” Srivastava’s devoted attitude - she capably balances her college and social work - has prompted the local Corporator to induct her into the ward committee that supervises all related infrastructure development. Ever since then, she has been working tirelessly for the betterment of 260 households. “I have got 200 forms filled for toilet construction under the SBM, of which 70 toilets have been constructed,” she informs us with a hint of pride. She has also submitted an application for building a sewer line. Clearly, this trio has proven that when women put their hearts into bettering their lived realities nothing can stop them.

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    In India, nearly 600 million people lack access to adequate sanitation, increasing the risk of groundwater contamination. According to the World Bank, diseases like diarrhea kill approximately 800,000 children under age five every year and leaves millions more malnourished and stunted. In an effort to address this absence of sanitation, which is especially acute in rural areas that lack access to water and sewage infrastructure, the Indian government has set the target of 100% sanitation by 2022 and is working to boost cleanliness and end open defecation in the country. However, while building toilets across the country is the need of the hour, it is also important to pay attention to environmentally-friendly set ups and local conditions.

    An inexpensive and easy-to-operate alternative to traditional waste disposal, eco-friendly toilets are a great way of meeting new Sustainable Development Goals while supporting the Indian government’s vision of a cleaner, healthier society.

    [caption id="attachment_75539" align="aligncenter" width="716"]1393831834_bioloo Biotoilets[/caption]
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    It’s innovative thinking like this that can help increase the number of people who have access to toilets – and perhaps even change the way the world uses them. Here’s a look at eco-friendly toilet designs that can play an important role in the battle for better sanitation for 600 million Indians who defecate in the open.

    1. Bio-digestor Toilets

    42-47st-3
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    Bio-digester toilets are designed to convert human waste into gases and manure. The zero-waste biodigester technology uses psychrotrophic bacteria like Clostridium and Methanosarcina (these microbes can live in cold or hot climate and feed on waste to survive) to break down human excreta into usable water and gas. Once applied, the bacteria can work for a lifetime. Waste from toilets are sent to a giant underground bio-digester tank where anaerobic digestion takes place. Methane gas produced in the tanks can be used for different purposes, including firing up gas stoves and generating electricity while the leftovers (popularly called Humanure or 'Human manure') can be used for gardening and farming. It does not have any geographical or temperature limitation and also does away with the need to set up large sewerage networks. The technology was originally developed by the Defence Research Development Organization's (DRDO) research lab in Gwalior to meet the sanitation requirements of soldiers serving in the high altitudes of Ladakh and Siachen (Earlier, the waste was collected from deep pits and then incinerated which required energy and labour). The best feature of this toilet is that it totally does away with manual scavenging, is low on maintenance and installation cost and can be adapted to any geo-climatic conditions of the country. For example, the chambers increase retention time of the waste in places where water table is high, like in Lakshwadeep or homes and offices where people flush frequently. In glaciers where the temperature is as low as -40°C, the toilet is fitted with solar panels of 240 watt to keep the excreta warm for processing. Design changes are also being worked for toilets in houseboats in Srinagar to avoid water contamination. One major achievement has been its installation in India Railways, whose trains are referred to as the "largest open defecation system in the world".

    2. Permeable Reactive Barrier (PRB) toilet

    [caption id="attachment_75506" align="aligncenter" width="635"]15bg_toilets_2109238f Toilet Awareness Campaign[/caption]
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    According to a National Sample Survey, 12% of low-cost toilets being built in rural and urban areas rely entirely on a refuse-collection pit — a design that ends up leaching nitrates into the groundwater below. Moreover, evidence of increased nitrate contamination in groundwater by sewage seepage has been reported in 20 states of the country.

    With the aim of reducing this pollution hazard, Researchers at the Centre for Sustainable Technologies at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have developed a permeable reactive barrier (PRB) toilet which uses a mixture of sand and bentonite clay. The clay acts as a permeable membrane that regulates the flow of leachates by swelling when in contact with water. This process allows denitrifying bacteria to convert nitrates to gaseous nitrogen through anaerobic processes.

    The study — which was published recently in the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development — shows the barrier reducing nitrate concentration by 66 per cent within 12 hours and nearly 94 per cent within a day. Also, realising that Bentonite Enhanced Sand (BES) may not be available in rural and small towns across the country, IISc researchers have identified a mix of locally-sourced cow dung and sand is equally efficient in removing nitrates from leachate. Plans are on to install this barrier of cow dung and sand in a few rural pit toilets as part of pilot studies.

    3. Solar-Powered, Self-Cleaning Toilet

    [caption id="attachment_75508" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]http-%2f%2fmashable-com%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2016%2f03%2fbull-park Eram Scientific's E-toilets[/caption]
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    Since 2014, Eram Scientific, an R&D social enterprise based in Thiruvananthapuram, has been rolling out automated and self-cleaning solar-powered cleaning toilets. Sleek and made of stainless steel, the toilets are designed to be installed in locations where access to electricity and common sanitation methods is difficult, if not impossible. The toilet flushes itself before and after every use, using a minimum amount of water, that is determined through sensors: On an average, each flush uses 1.5 litres of water, compared to the 8-10 litres used by a normal flush. Its floor is automatically washed after every tenth use. The lights turn on automatically and draw power from a built-in solar panel. Everything is monitored through GPRS telemetry: the frequency and volume of usage, and water and electricity consumption. Also, there are provisions for waste treatment using anaerobic bio-degradation. The great thing about this energy efficient toilet is the fact that facilities can be stacked on to the basic framework. For example, the Kerala State Women’s Development Corp. Ltd wanted a coin-operated sanitary napkin vending machine inside the toilets they ordered, and Eram Scientific ensured that they got it.

    4. Bamboo Toilet

    [caption id="attachment_75528" align="aligncenter" width="1067"]rs0hm54 A Bamboo Toilet[/caption]
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    Arguably low-tech, bamboo toilets are cheap and practical. As the name suggests, bamboo toilets are those whose structures are built with bamboo - fast growing woody evergreen plants that have strength comparable to steel. Bamboo toilets represent an eco-friendly and potentially sustainable solution in the quest for building toilets in areas that still do not have access to modern amenities. Though from time immemorial, bamboo has been part of the housing scene, the advent of new building materials and increasing industrialisation has edged out the plant species from the construction sector. In fact, bamboo, once the housing mainstay of the rural and the poor population, is now the least used material. Keeping in mind the country’s need for urban and rural sanitation options, the government plans to develop various models of public and community toilets using bamboo, natural, treated or engineered bamboo as construction materials. Recently, two prototype bamboo toilets were set up in Nagaland where Bamboo is readily available. This initiative was an outcome of a five-day training on "bamboo toilets for private use and for the community", jointly organised by Nagaland Bamboo Development Agency (NBDA) and South Asia Bamboo Foundation (SABF) in partnership with Building Material Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC), Ministry of Urban Development & Poverty Alleviation.

    5. EcoSan Toilets / Urine Diverting Dry Toilets (UDDT)

    [caption id="attachment_75535" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]inside_of_the_uddt_5332645379 Inside an UDDT[/caption]
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    EcoSan or UDDT toilets make great individual toilets for areas where digging the ground is highly complicated. UDDT is built above the ground level using conventional bricks or hollow blocks. It has two chambers - the urine, faeces and cleansing water go into separate holes. The floor of the chamber is also paved with concrete to prevent water or soil coming into contact with the faeces. Each chamber will be used for about 12 months alternatively. In this type of toilet, the separation is the key: it allows each to be dealt with at little to no cost. When the faeces dry out and remain isolated in a chamber over weeks and months, they decompose and break down into harmless soil nutrients – this means valuable soil nutrients take out in the form of crops are returned to the soil. Scientists call this closing the loop on nutrients. Also, EcoSan toilets save water and electricity, the two biggest expenses in water-borne sewerage by eliminating the need for sewage treatment plants, elaborate sewer network, and the expenses on maintenance and operations of such systems. This also means that it can provide sanitation in extreme areas; in desert areas, where water scarcity necessitates frugal use of water; in rocky areas, where it is not possible to dig for pits and sewers; in coastal and flooded areas, with very high water tables; in earthquake prone zones, as there is no danger of sewage leaking through cracked sewer lines or pits.
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
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    Sulabh International's Toilet Museum in Delhi offers a glimpse of the development of sanitation facilities across the world. Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of Sulabh International, set about trying to collect all the information he could about toilets from across the world for his dream project: a toilet museum.

    The result, of this treasure hunt of sorts, is a hallway lined with toilet specimens and information about toilet facilities from as far back as 3000 BC.

    [caption id="attachment_75524" align="alignnone" width="1200"]window-photo A view of the Toilet Museum[/caption] Here you can find information about kings who had their thrones fitted with commodes, how elephants were potty-trained, toilets that can massage constipation away, and toilet models that range from the mundane to the ornamental to the bizarre. Established in 1992, the collection includes a commode shaped like a treasure chest (used by the English when out camping, with the express purpose of fooling robbers), some more modern varieties of commodes that look like a printer/fax machines, a toilet in the form of a stack of books, a toy-commode from China, and even an electric toilet from USA. A highlight is the replica of the throne of French King Louis XIV (1638-1715), which also served as a toilet seat.

    It was aptly labeled, “The Rumble Throne.” His court jester apparently remarked: “There are two things in your work that I can never get used to...One is eating alone and the other is defecating in company.”

    [caption id="attachment_75523" align="alignnone" width="1200"]rumble-throne A replica of the "Rumble Throne" of French King Louis XIV[/caption] For history aficionados, the place is a treasure trove of information containing hidden gems about the use of toilets through the ages, including how the lack of toilets brought the downfall of Persians against the Greeks in the 3rd Persian War in 480 BC. Many of the Persians apparently perished in a plague caused by the improper disposal of their excrement. Roman Emperor Heliogabas was assassinated in a toilet in 222 AD. Not many people would know that the ancient Hindu scriptures of Manusmriti and Vishnupuran lay out different sets of “toilet etiquettes” for married and unmarried people, or that they even list such recommendations. Literature lovers may want to check out the section dedicated to literature inspired by the activity of defecating. There are also remedies for constipation, a display of tacky toilet signs, and information about the most expensive toilet in the world.

    The cost of the last is literally out of the world – at $19 million, the toilet installed in the International Space Station is one of the most expensive places to take a leak.

    [caption id="attachment_75518" align="alignnone" width="1200"]ornamental2 Model of ornamental toilet[/caption] The walls are dedicated to the history of sewage systems and toilets, displayed chronologically from the ancient, medieval to the modern eras. The museum documents how the development of sanitation facilities parallels the development of civilization – from chamber pots that were cleaned manually to toilets installed on the top floors of houses that would deposit the waste into rivers and ditches below. The 19th century was known as the “Century of the Toilet,” because of the rapid development in sanitation facilities. Over time, some inventors went beyond the requirements of comfort when creating designs for heeding the call of nature. In 1929, an American electrician patented a seat that was warmed using electricity.

    In 1966, a Chicago hairdresser designed a toilet seat with a buttock-stimulator to relieve constipation.

    [caption id="attachment_75526" align="alignnone" width="1200"]wooden3 A toilet used in the 1930s.[/caption] In India, public toilets were constructed only in 1940, but were soon rendered unusable because of lack of maintenance. The courtyard outside the museum exhibit models of toilets developed by Sulabh International that are used across India today, as the country wages a battle against open defecation. The museum is open every day, except on national holidays, from 10:30 am to 5 pm during winter (Nov 1 to Mar 30) and from 10 am to 5 pm in summer (Apr 1 to Oct 30).

    And if you can’t make it in person, you can always take the virtual tour.

    [caption id="attachment_75519" align="alignnone" width="1200"]ornamental3 The model of a porcelain toilet with a lion pedestal.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75521" align="alignnone" width="1200"]porta-potti Porta Potti, a mobile toilet used during camping[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75520" align="alignnone" width="1200"]ornamental4 Replica of a floral porcelain toilet[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75525" align="alignnone" width="1200"]wooden Replica of a European wooden toilet[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75534" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Toilet Etiquettes from the Manu Smriti and Vishnupuran[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75512" align="alignnone" width="1200"] An incinolet electric toilet used by U.S. Naval forces in submarines.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75514" align="alignnone" width="1200"]jokes Cartoons on display at the Toilet Museum[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75516" align="alignnone" width="1200"]museum-wall A wall in the Toilet Museum displaying information about toilets in ancient societies[/caption] [caption id="attachment_75515" align="alignnone" width="1200"]museum-entry The courtyard of the Toilet Museum.[/caption]

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    Every morning, The Better India team spends a first few hours scouting for positive stories. We find many tales of humanity, some that moist our eyes for the courage displayed, that make us leap in joy for helping the less privileged. But, above all stories that speak of love, compassion and determination.  These are stories of Indians that rise above challenges not merely for survival but for inspired living. People of Lonwadi village are one such bunch. About 50 kms from Nasik, Maharashtra is a village named Lonwadi. About 42 household in this village live in the forest.  Farming is the only source of income for these tribal families. The village has only three toilets, of which one is a bio-toilet used by senior citizens, provided by Shiv Prabha Charitable Trust. The rest of the villagers have no choice but to defecate in the open. For a nation to growth, we have to lend a helping hand to those among us in need of basic amenities, even for something as basic as ‘Toilets’! And so, today on World Toilet Day, The Better India has taken up the mandate, along with Shiv Prabha Charitable Trust, to make Lonwadi ‘open defecation free’.

    We need your support to make this dream come true.

    lonwadi

    What we intend to do:

    One of the milestones for Lonwadi to become an Adarsh Gram (Ideal village) is having toilets for every household. In the last four years, Shiv Prabha has successfully helped bring clean drinking water, electricity, provided a digital school, assisted in group farming and irrigation, among other aid. Our aim is to build 40 toilets in Lonwadi to make it free of open defecation’. We seek your support in meeting this endeavour.

    How much will it cost?

    We require Rs. 8,00,00 to build 40 toilets. It costs Rs. 20, 000 to build one toilet.  We have just 30 days to raise the required funds.

    Why does it cost as much?

    While building a bio-toilet costs Rs. 35,000, the cost of a good quality toilet is Rs 20,000. Therefore, we have chosen to build a normal toilet as it is economical.

    Who will build the toilets?

    The NGO Shiv Prabha along with its volunteers and villagers will participate in the construction of the toilets.

    How can you can help?

    toilet Every Rs. 2,000 contributed by you will help get us 10% closer to laying the foundations of a Swachh Bharat starting from each household.

    What is the mode of payment you can use for your donation?

    You can choose from the below mentioned options;
    • Credit/Debit cards
    • Net Banking
    • AMEX card
    • Wallets: PayTm/PayUMoney/Mobikwik /Payzapp
    • International donors can use PayPal

    Why aren't we using government subsidies?

    Although the NGO has applied for a government subsidiary, the funds will be to the tune of Rs. 12,000, much lesser than what is required to build 40 toilets. Once the government subsidy is received, Shiv Prabha will use the funds to build bathrooms.

    Why are we working with Shiv Prabha Charitable Trust?

    lamp-village Until 2012, the village lacked road connectivity, electricity and clean drinking water. Shiv Prabha has aided the development of Lonwadi for the last four years. They brought in solar light and street lights, proper tar roads have been built, irrigation pumps have been installed. Lonwadi got its first digital school under this NGO efforts.

    What are we going to do to address behavioral issues?

    Since the NGO has actively been working with the village for the last few years, volunteers already have a healthy equation will the villagers. The NGO’s volunteers will personally work together with the families to counsel them against open defecation.
    This World Toilet Day, The Better India is supporting Lonwadi, a village in Maharashtra, to become open defecation free in just one month! The residents want to build a toilet in each home and secure a healthy, hygienic and dignified life for themselves. Please lend your support to the residents in their quest and help them get access to toilets, sanitation facilities and a healthy future like all of us.
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