Tag Archives: sanitation

Stacking toilets across the seasons: providing sustainable sanitation for all?

By Amita Bhakta, University Loughborough

pit latrine Rod Shaw WEDC

Where do you go to pee? Is it hygienic? Can you access it all year round? These questions don’t often cross the minds of those of us using clean toilets in the comfort of our homes, schools, workplaces, and the other public places we visit. However, in  2015, 2.3 billion people across the world did not have access to a private toilet that safely takes away their… well, poo. This risks the spread of disease and ill-health as people have no choice but to go to the toilet outside in a field or a street.

The current Sustainable Development Agenda via the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has given us, as a global population, a target to provide sanitation which meets everyone’s needs by 2030 (see SDG6, to provide clean water and sanitation for all). At the same time, we’re also working towards combating climate change and take ‘climate action’ (SDG13), ensuring gender equality (SDG5), providing a quality education for all (SDG4 ), and, importantly, ensuring good health and wellbeing for everybody (SDG3). Access to safe, improved toilets that reduce disease spread all year round is a vital part of meeting these goals. Whilst global efforts are underway to provide sustainable sanitation for all, climate change brings with it an array of risks and threats to our ability to take care of our health (Batty, 2018) through access to toilets.

In their paper in The Geographical Journal, Jewitt et al (2018) discuss how despite the fact that communities in India are gaining improved ‘pukka’ latrines, ‘stacking’ different latrine systems is not sustainable in the long term. Climate change raises the need to consider seasonality in sanitation design more carefully to adapt to risks of seasonal flooding. Whilst we can design and build man-made structures such as toilets, they are still vulnerable to the forces of nature, which can ultimately dictate whether a toilet maintains its ‘improved’ status, and leads to ‘stacking’ where different types of sanitation are used in the absence of good infrastructure.

Sustainable sanitation for all needs to be able to withstand the seasons of the year, but it also needs to consider who it is there to cater for. In recent years, the water and sanitation sector has explored the needs of women and adolescent girls for menstrual hygiene, disabled people, incontinence sufferers, and, recently, women who are going through the menopause. Individuals have different needs for sanitation, and this needs to be carefully considered in the design of each facility in the longer term. Women and girls will always need good menstrual hygiene management in toilets that are safe and dignified. Disabled people will always need a toilet that they can use easily without barriers. And, ultimately, we will all always need to pee. Sanitation for all means for all – no matter what the weather.

About the author: Amita Bhakta is a PhD candidate at the Water, Engineering, and Development Centre (WEDC) at the University of Loughborough. 

Batty, M 2018 ‘Ways to step up the fight against global antimicrobial resistance’ The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/29/ways-to-step-up-the-fight-against-global-antimicrobial-resistance  29 March 2018 [accessed 24 April 2018]

Jewitt S, Mahanta A, Gaur K. Sanitation sustainability, seasonality and stacking: Improved facilities for how long, where and whom?Geogr J2018;00:1–14. https://doi.org/10.1111/geoj.12258.

‘UNDP Goal 3 Good health and wellbeing’ http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-3-good-health-and-well-being.html [accessed 24 April 2018]

‘UNDP Goal 4 Quality education’ http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-4-quality-education.html [accessed 24 April 2018]

‘UNDP Goal 5 Gender equality’ http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-5-gender-equality.html [accessed 24 April 2018]

‘UNDP Goal 6 Clean water and sanitation’ http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-6-clean-water-and-sanitation.html [accessed 24 April 2018]

‘UNDP Goal 13 Climate action’ http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-13-climate-action.html

Reframing civil society through the everyday: from farms to toilets

By Amita Bhakta, Loughborough University

The evolving role of civil society in the development agenda is a critical point of discussion, as Peck (2015) rightly argues in her recent article in the Geography Compass. A key aspect of what is considered as ‘civil society’ builds on traditional notions of getting involved in development ‘from the outside’ separating the donors and those who are seen as providing support, and those receiving it. But when it comes to assessing and evaluating precisely the significance of civil society, it is important to look at the individuals who are getting involved as part of their everyday practices to bring about change, and the subsequent consequences for everyday lives. As reported in The Guardian, it is with the support of civil society organisations such as NGO’s that female farmers in the region of Samburu in Kenya can be empowered to provide for their families with the uncertainties of climate change through their existing roles. But, is it enough to look at livelihood practices alone as a way forward for civil society, or should we turn to the mundane, hidden yet significant elements of the ‘everyday’?

World_Toilet_Day_WTD_Logo

On the 19th November 2015, the UN held World Toilet Day which was marked across the globe. The Guardian provided a stark reminder of the fact that 774 million people in India alone still lack access to a toilet. Access to adequate sanitation is a human right for all, yet a place to find relief is still a critical issue for many. As the Sustainable Development Goals call for ‘availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’ (UN, 2015), the role of civil society in meeting these targets remains crucial. The Right to Pee movement in India provides an example of how women are being specifically targeted as a group who require a safe place for defecation, and often require toilets to deal with secretive issues such as menstruation. Therefore it can be said that paying attention to hidden stories of different groups of the everyday, including the use of toilets and livelihood practices, can truly be a significant way forward for development. In the bigger picture, it remains to be seen whether civil society is the only relevant actor in understandings of the everyday, or whether a global cooperation between civil society and governments is the way forward to nurture and focus the attention of the world onto the everyday. Finally, as Robert Chambers (1997) questioned, ‘Whose reality counts?’ and whose everyday, and which aspects of their everyday, will we look at?

60-world2 BBC 2015 100 Women 2015: India’s ‘right to pee’

books_icon Chambers, R (1997) Whose Reality Counts? Putting the first last London: Intermediate Technology Publications

60-world2 Kibet R 2015 On Kenya’s climate frontline, female farmers are building a secure future  The Guardian

books_icon Peck, S (2015) Civil Society, Everyday Life and the Possibilities for Development Studies  doi: 10.1111/gec3.12245.