Monday, October 26, 2009

Sulabh International Social Service Organisation

Location: India
Year: 1970s- present
Founder: Bindeshwar Pathak

In an effort to elevate the social status of the ‘untouchables’ -those scavengers who clean pit latrines- sociologist Bindeshwar Pathak founded the non-governmental organization Sulabh International and created a latrine that is practically maintenance-free. The “eco-friendly, technically appropriate, socio-culturally acceptable and economically affordable” Sulabh Flush Compost Toilet requires only very little water (2 liters) to flush and creates sludge that after 2 years of sitting in an underground pit is turned into manure which can be used as an agricultural fertilizer. Up to date, more than 1,2 million Sulabh toilets have been installed in India.

Sulabh International also prides itself on being the “pioneering organization in the field of biogas generation from public toilet complexes,” treating effluents on site and converting human excreta into biogas that can be used for cooking and lighting. It has constructed 190 biogas plants, whose accompanying community toilets service 250,000 people per day, creating practically 9 million daily square feet of biogas.

The most notable strengths of Sulabh International’s sanitary actions (the organization has since diversified its realms of social involvement) are the large scale at which they have been and continue to be undertaken -primordially in India but recently also in countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal- as well as the multiple advantages they confer. Not only have they helped liberate 120,000 scavengers from cleaning 13 million latrines throughout India, as well as improved the sanitary conditions of those who use the new toilets, but they provide an important example of sustainable human waste management in developing countries. Dr. Pathak’s technologies and actions have received international recognition, earning him a number of awards including the 2007 Energy Globe Award, the Indira Gandhi Award for Environment, and the Global 500 Roll of Honour Award by UNEP.

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