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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

Seven Ways in Seven Days: Sanitation Innovation in India

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

Image credit: Abhijeet Safai

Spoiler alert: it’s about to get weird up in here!

Let’s face it: sanitation isn’t the cleanest of subjects. But we’re about to tell you all about some cool new inventions hitting India. They’re not just any inventions either. They’re making India a cleaner place.

Warning: This article is not for the faint-hearted when it comes to potty-talk.

1. Pee Buddy

Let’s be totally honest. The Pee Buddy is at the top of the list because we love the name.

The Pee Buddy is a waterproof cardboard funnel. Currently, it is helping women across India use toilets without sitting down. We’re not going to go into a full-on description of the mechanics of the product as we’re sure you get the idea. If not, there’s always Google, right?

Deep Bajaj, Delhi-based entrepreneur, invented the Pee Buddy on a road trip when his friend’s wife complained about the lack of clean toilets throughout their journey.

If you’re giggling now and wondering if we’re serious, that’s the exact response Bajaj received from purchasing managers when he first presented the prototype.

Aside from having a really awesome name, this product actually has a purpose. Dirty toilet seats are “paradise city” for bacteria. Sitting on the toilet for many women around India can cause infections such as Urinary Tract Infections. Diseases, which spread through dirty water and poor sanitation, kill more women around the world than AIDS, diabetes or breast cancer. The Pee Buddy is not only a win for sanitation but a win for women.

Image credit: SuSanA Secretariat

2. Economical Toilets

What do you get when you combine a water shortage in rural India with toilets that take less water to flush?

A toilet that works of course!

This is exactly what Mamta Gautam, a graduate of the National Institute of Design (NID) in India has done.

You may be wondering why this is so important.

With a rapidly growing population and economy, India's water supply is decreasing from over-pumping and over-pollution and India is facing a water crisis.


So with these facts in mind, I think an economical toilet is a welcome innovation.

Don’t you agree?

3. Toilet-to-Tap

For anyone with a large dog at home, you may have seen them pulling one of these ones…

Image credit: Craig Murphy

Totally gross, right?

Not for much longer! The Keshopur Sewage Treatment Plant is hosting the first toilet-to-tap water project. Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, took the first bold gulp of the treated groundwater at the launch of the project. With one-quarter of Delhi’s population relying on untreated groundwater, this project is an awesome investment. The World Bank estimates blame 21% of communicable diseases in India on unsafe water. Diarrhea, one of these diseases, causes more than 1,600 people to die each day in India.

4. AAKASH AMRIT - The Magic Machine

So this one might be stretching the idea of sanitation a little bit… But we promise it still has to do with the whole concept of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). This isn’t something we’ve just pulled out of thin air…

… Or is it?

Many of us have heard the biblical story of Jesus turning water into wine. But have you heard of AAKASH AMRIT turning air into water? Three of these devices, built by Inventive Green, were distributed to the Jalna district, one of which was installed at the civil hospital. Each machine has the capacity to generate approximately 500 - 1,000 litres of water a day. Not only that, the system works within minutes of installation; it does not need any additional infrastructure, and it does not need skilled staff to operate or maintain. All it needs is air.

5. Housing for All

The name tells the story here. Housing for all is pretty much everything the name suggests. But you probably want some more info about what they actually do.

The Housing for All by 2022 project aims to provide low-income workers a chance to escape the harsh realities of Mumbai’s slums. So what’s that got to do with sanitation?

More people in housing means greater access to toilets and more clean water running through pipes. Those basic needs, which many people around the world take for granted, will finally be a reality for those living in the slums.

While funding is still being secured for the project, this is a priority commitment from the government, and we think it’s fantastic that leaders are taking positive steps towards a better future for 2,800 families. If successful, this pilot program could be the solution Mumbai needs.

Image credit: Vinoth Chandar

6. Mobile Toilets

When we mentioned “mobile toilets” to fellow colleagues for the first time, we were met with some pretty weird looks. They had envisaged some kind of cellular phone meets toilet kind of invention and were totally weirded out by the whole thing.

That’s not what this is.

Don’t be disappointed, though. It’s still pretty exciting! And it’s all about Waari!

Waari is a holy pilgrimage that occurs each year in Maharshtra where millions of Hindus walk 250 kilometers to offer their respects to Lord Vitthal, who is the reincarnated Hindu God of Vishnu. Most of these pilgrims, known as Waarakaris, are poor and make the entire 21-day journey on foot.

A few logistical things need to be considered such as: where is everyone going to poop? Let’s face it, millions of people pooping within a 250km stretch of road over 21 days--it’s going to get a bit gross.

This year, the Seva Sahyog Foundation provided 400 mobile toilets (porta-loos) that almost eradicated open defecation in two of the villages the procession rested in. While the whole route was not equipped with these mobile toilets, Pradeep Rawat, who was in charge of the project, described the initiative as a pilot program.

This time next year, we hope to be writing an article about how companies and organisations saw the awesome results, wanted to get on board for next year’s procession and contributed to equipping the entire route with mobile toilets. It’s 100% possible!

7. Sanitation Festival


Bless you!

Just joking.

Keezhavalavu, while sounding like a sneeze, is actually place in India. This year, Keezhavalavu hosted a Sanitation Festival with one objective in mind: teach everyone about the importance of sanitation.

We’ll party to that reason!

The District Rural Development Agency has to be thanked for organizing this and for working with many villages to put an end to open defecation.

Why Keezhavalavu?

Well, within the span of a month, residents constructed 100 Individual Household Latrines in their own homes. The festival was organised in Keezhavalavu in light of these pioneering efforts.

The village leaders and villagers also conducted a mapping exercise, marking ‘hot spots’ where open defecation was prevalent. They then undertook a clean-up of these locations and planted saplings to maintain the hygiene of the village and to discourage people from going back to these spots.

This is definitely an initiative worth celebrating!

At the end of the day, anyone can build a toilet as a quick fix to sanitation, but changing habits and cultural norms aren’t as easy. We take our hats off to the leaders in India which include Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who are at the forefront of changing traditions and understand the immense benefits of tackling these health issues.

Image credit: Dawpa 2000 and Caterina Sullivan

This article was originally published on the Global Citizen website.


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