Saturday, 30 January 2010

Sulabh toilets?

Read this (from ‘Sanitation Updates’ here):

Experts from the UN and Asian Development Bank (ADB) today [27 January 2010] asked developing nations to adopt low cost Sulabh toilet to streamline their sanitation system.

The Sulabh technology is one of the solutions to the sanitation crisis and this low cost Indian method should be utilised in developing countries,” senior ADB official A Thapan said at a follow-up conference of the International Year of Sanitation being organised here
[Tokyo] by UN and Government of Japan.

Thomas Steltzer, Assistant Secretary-General, UN, also advocated Sulabh model for streamlining of sanitation system in developing and third world countries.

[The ‘Sulabh toilets’ are described on the Sulabh website.]

High praise indeed, but is it informed praise? I have my doubts. Anyone really familiar with communal sanitation facilities would prefer the SPARC model over the Sulabh model – read Community-designed, built and managed toilet blocks in Indian cities (Environment & Urbanization, October 2003). See the SPARC website and Community Sanitation Blocks, and also blog of 28 January 2008.

SPARC, The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres, is an absolutely brilliant Indian NGO that “that supports two people’s movements − the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and Mahila Milan (MM) [‘Mahila Milan’ means “Women Together” in Hindi]. NSDF and MM organise hundreds of thousands of slum dwellers and pavement dwellers to address issues related to urban poverty, and collectively produce solutions for affordable housing and sanitation.” In truth, an approach that’s all together much better than Sulabh’s, though the Sulabh model does of course have its place in the provision of decent public (as opposed to community-based) sanitation blocks.

Who said “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”?

[Actually it was Alexander Pope (1688−1744) in An Essay on Criticism published in 1709, although what he said was “A little learning is a dangerous thing”.]