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A toilet revolution Print E-mail
Posted by Administrator   
Monday, 26 July 2010

ImageBy: Ujjwal Pradhan

Kathmandu: Take a Pee & Get One Rupee. If you have traveled on the Prithvi Highway last year, you must have noticed this seemingly-ridiculous slogan in Darechowk, near Kurintar. Of course, if you have used public toilets before, then you may be more used to paying a rupee to urinate. Instead, members of The Sewa Nepal, a local NGO, pay anyone a rupee if he or she uses their toilet. And no, they are not joking.

“Previously, people used to mock us but now they have realized the message we are trying to convey: Urine is a valuable asset,” says Srirendra Shrestha, founder and coordinator of the NGO. Thus, what the NGO does is collect the urine and convert it to fertilizers for the villagers around. A pretty unique business idea, but there’s more to this than just that.
The NGO, which is involved in environmental conservation and community sanitation, has actively pursued to make Darechowk a model Village Development Committee (VDC). The group’s efforts finally became successful when Darechowk was declared the 18th Open Defecation Free (ODF) VDC in Chitwan a week ago—thus paving the way for a cleaner, sanitized village.
The ODF movement in Nepal has been supported by the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) in coordination with World Health Organization, UNICEF and NGOs like Environment and Public Health Organization. The Sewa Nepal has been the local partner of the movement, providing toilet pans and pipes to individual households in Darechowk. Locals say this is a sanitation movement led by the common people. Thus, among the 1,656 households in the VDC, more than half have a proper toilet. Further, around 770 houses have built an EcoSan (short for ecological sanitation) toilet, the most preferred type as it can collect human waste that can be used as fertiliser.
In an EcoSan toilet, there are separate compartments for urine and faeces. This separation prevents infection since urine is comparatively sterile and devoid of pathogens while the faeces carry all the germs. Collecting them differently helps treat the faeces separately—simply done by leaving it to decompose in an improvised septic tank for about two years. Human excreta treated with the passage of time are then used in the fields as manure. A new type of organic revolution is underway here.
ImageMina Pokharel has been using human manure for the past year and is quite impressed with the results. “After I started using urine as fertilizer, the yield has been very good and the vegetables taste better too,” she says. Did it ever feel disgusting? “It did in the beginning. But once I started reaping the benefits, I realized the value of our own waste.”
This revolutionary ecological movement is spearheaded by the VDC officials themselves. The VDC allocated part of its annual budget to support the movement by providing two sacks of cement to each household with additional monetary support for poor families. “We spent about Rs. 1 million on this movement,” says VDC secretary Nilkantha Lamichchane. “Declaring the VDC an ODF village has immensely boosted the morale of villagers. We hope to have proper toilets in all the households by the end of this year.”
Teachers have played a central role in this movement, which took its current shape after DWSS conducted a School-Led Total Sanitation project in 2006 in the district. The programme stressed on teaching sanitation habits in schools and also held discussions and sanitation awareness campaigns, besides training teachers on the use of various types of toilets. The programme was largely successful; since then 378 community schools and 239 public and private schools in the district have been declared ODF schools. The excitement associated with this movement has spilled over to adjoining VDCs of neighboring districts as well. Villagers from Makwanpur, Gorkha and Dhading are trying to follow the Darechowk model and implement the programme in earnest. However, no municipality has yet been declared ODF in Nepal.
In a country where only 27 percent of the population has access to sanitation, this model is proving to be one of the few shining lights. Districts like Jajarkot and Rukum saw the deaths of hundreds last year due to diarrhoea, a disease that could have been prevented had this model been implemented there. The ODF model is not only important for health reasons. There are important sociological impacts that having a private toilet has had in Darechowk.
Ask Sadhana Adhikari, for instance. The 15-year-old student says a toilet is the best thing to have happened to her. “I don’t have to suffer any more embarrassments during my periods. The toilet offers me privacy and it’s easier to remain clean during that time.”

Source: The Kathmandu Post, July 24, 2010

 
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