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One main environmental benefit of the Ecosan Toilet is to recover the nitrogen-rich human waste by-products, so they can be used to help food plants grow in the village, rather then just going to waste.
The ECOSAN toilet is a very advanced and modern way of constructing a toilet.
The main objectives are:
The first set of features has to do with collection of solid waste and the separation of fluid waste, so that the fluid waste can be used for garden and plant growth. A special ceramic toilet pan was designed so that in use, the solid matter and fluids can be separated.
To avoid contamination of ground water.
To avoid pollution of air, water, and soil.
To recover nutrients from human excreta and safely recycle them back to the environment as fertilisers,
The solids are collected in a sealed compartment, and the fluid waste is diverted so that it can be used immediately to enhance garden watering. Ash (or other drying material, such as sand or sawdust) is added to the solid waste to eliminate smell. This ash also improves the composition of the compost that is created by this process.
The Toilet is built with two solid waste collection compartments. One is used until it is full. Then it is sealed and the other compartment is used. The sealed compartment will naturally compost over the next six months. During this process it is heated past 160° C, so that all bacteria are destroyed and the resulting compost is safe for use.
The fluids are best used to water food plants for the family. In our project, often Banana plants, chillies or tomatoes are watered by the fluid waste from the Ecosan Toilet. Mango trees and coconut palms are also watered by the fluids collected from the Ecosan Toilet.
The washroom is built as a separate room in the structure with its own door. In the pilot we built washroom as a compartment within the toilet, with only one door for both. People told us that this was not good, since they needed for different family members to use washroom and toilet at the same time.
Water is carried into the washroom by the people using it. Some families have actually piped water into the washroom, for easier use. The wastewater from the washroom is added to the wastewater from the toilet and both are used to provide water for plants. In this way, not even the bath water is wasted.
Another major benefit of the Ecosan Toilet is with water. No water is needed, reducing water consumption. No water connection is needed, as with other toilets, so the Toilet is easier to construct. No septic tank is needed, so the cost of the toilet is much less. Also there is no risk of water contamination, as is always the risk with septic tanks.
There is a strong health benefit as well. Human excretions often are the cause of diseases and spreading of the diseases. The composting action of the Ecosan Toilet prevents the spread of disease, sterilises this waste and kills all the pathogens.
How Ecosan Toilets Benefits The People:
People are now able to use a toilet at their house, rather than relieving themselves in nearby fields. This makes toilet use easier; the women feel safer with the privacy of the toilet instead of doing toilet functions where they can be seen by men; it is easier for the children to use; and in bad weather it is much safer to use the bathroom. In addition, problems like snakes in the fields where toileting is done are entirely avoided.
Use of the toilets has helped the village people avoid jaundice, which was a common problem before the introduction of the Ecosan Toilets.
Co-operation of the village people is vital to this project. For the project to succeed, long-standing habits of toilet use need to be changed for the men, woman and children.
How To Obtain Co-operation From The Village People:
Each group represents a different set of problems. Women have been the easiest to get to use the new toilets. Right away, they see the benefits of ease of use and improved privacy.
The woman get the children trained to use the toilets, so this comes naturally.
The men are more of a problem. They do not see as much need to change.
To encourage co-operation a number of things have been done. An educational program was conducted on the benefits of the Ecosan Toilets. This has been done both in group meetings and one on one. Also trips were made to villages that already were using Ecosan Toilets, so that the villagers could talk to other villagers who had gone through this change, and see for themselves that this was worthwhile.
Some men have been able to see that it is safer. Some men can be convinced by their wives. Some can understand that late at night, the Ecosan Toilet is easier to use. Then, once they get started using it, then may continue.
Meetings have been an important component of this project. In these meetings, village people have been educated about the benefits of Ecosan Toilets, have had their questions answered, and have got to see that others in the village are interested in the Ecosan Toilet. This makes it easier for them to consider its use. Assistance is provided to QLT by Bless.
The benefits with composting water use and health were stressed again and again.
This education and meetings were especially needed since there are no other Ecosan Toilets in use near Tiruvannamalai.
In India, Ecosan Toilets were first used in Kerala. Then Bless introduced them into Cuddalore and Scope introduced them into Trichy. In Auroville they were introduced with the help of Waterharvest.
QLT first learned about Ecosan from people in Kerala, then got books published by EcoSolutions and ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) in Puducherry. We then talked to the people at Bless, and got further information. After this, the pilot project was funded by QLT supporters and executed.
In the pilot build, the first unit was constructed per the basic plan, which did not include a washroom. The feedback we got from the villagers at that time was that adding a washroom would make these Toilets much more useful to the members of the family. Their problems dealing with personal cleanliness and sanitation extended beyond just toilet use, and included the need for daily bathing facilities.
QLT modified the design of the EcoSan by adding a bathing room, and, working with Wherever The Need and Bless, implemented the first major Ecosan Toilet construction effort in the Tiruvannamalai area, in MGR Village, adjacent to Tiruvannamalai.
QLT has developed a new innovation during this project. This innovation eliminates the ceramic toilet pan, and uses instead a form cast into the cement floor of the toilet to accomplish the same function.
The two problems most reported are smell and cockroach infestations. Smell coming from the toilet means that more ash (or other drying material) needs to be added. To solve cockroach problems, neem leaves need to be added into the toilet compartment. This needs to be done until the infestation is resolved.
The image shows the two chamber covers and the urine outlet in the middle.
The image shows the rear view of the toilet.