Posted by & filed under Africa, Articles, In the Press.

NEW DELHI: In order to provide proper sanitation facilities in parts of South Africa, NGO Sulabh International will construct 200 toilets and a training school around Mahatma Gandhi's Phoenix settlement in Durban. 

"Sulabh International will open a vocational training school for the poor and marginalised people who are living around Mahatma Gandhi's famous Phoenix settlement at Durban where the Father of the Nationspent more than a decade during his South Africastay," NGO's founder Bindeshwar Pathak said. 

The low-cost sanitation NGO will also build 200 household toilets in the settlement, he said at the just concluded 'World Toilet Summit' in Durban. 

A community toilet popularly known as Sulabh Shauchalaya would also be constructed and maintained to serve the needs of the population of the Phoenix settlement spread over hundred acres established byMahatma Gandhi in 1893. 

"The idea is to ensure a decent life to all those who live at Gandhi settlement," Pathak said. 

He visited Gandhi settlement, interacted with local population and got first hand information about the lack of proper toilet facility there, the NGO said in a statement today. 

Pathak met the authorities of the Gandhi Ashram located within the Phoenix settlement and assured them to build a vocational training school for the local population. 

Pathak also met Mthembu Bo, Information Officer of Gandhi settlement and discussed about his plans. 

He will approach the government to allow Sulabh to open a training centre near Kusturba Gandhi Primary School which was established by Gandhi's wife for the poor people of the settlement.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, International.

डरबन/ दक्षिण अफ्रीका :  भारत की स्वयं सेवी संस्था सुलभ इंटरनेशनल जल्द ही दक्षिण अफ्रीका, केन्या, युगांडा, इथोपिया सहित अफ्रीकी महाद्वीप के 15 देशों में शौचालय बनाएगी।

ये शौचालय स्कूलों में तथा सार्वजनिक स्थलों पर बनाए जाएंगेे। महात्मा गांधी के प्रारंभिक जीवन की कर्मभूमि रहे डरबन में आयोजित शौचालय सम्मेलन को संबोधित करते हुए सुलभ इंटरनेशनल के संस्थापक व समाज सेवी बिंदेश्वरी पाठक ने यह घोषणा की।

इन अफ्रीकी देशों में मोजांबिक, बरकीना फासों तथा केमरन भी शामिल है। उन्होंने कहा कि सुलभ के इन अफ्रीकी देशों के स्वच्छता प्रोफेशनल को शौचालय बनाने की सुलभ तकनीकी में प्रशिक्षण दिया है।

डा. पाठक के साथ राजस्थान की मैला ढोने से मुक्त कराई गई महिलाओं ने भी सम्मेलन में हिस्सा लिया तथा बाद में डरबन के उस स्थान पर भी ये महिलाएं गई जहां कभी गांधी जी ठहरे थे कभी सिर पर मैला ढोने का काम कर चुकी भारत के राजस्थान प्रांत की तीन महिलाएं  अस्पृथ्यता और रंगभेद के खिलाफ आवाज बुलंद करने वाले राष्ट्रपिता महात्मा गांधी की प्रारम्भिक कर्मभूमि के रप में मशहूर डरबन में आयोजित विश्व शौचालय सम्मेलन का हिस्सा बनी।

सिर पर मैला ढोने के काम से मुक्त कराई गई तथा कई (अछूत) कही जाने वाली ये महिलाएं कल से शुरू हुए दिवसीय सम्मेलन में हिस्सा लेने के साथ ही उस ऐतिहासिक स्थल पर भी गई, जहां एक सदी से अधिक पहले महात्मा गांधी रके थे।

दुनिया भर के स्वच्छता विशेषज्ञों के जमावड़ा वाले इस सम्मेलन को संबोधित करने के लिए स्वच्छता क्षेत्र के गैर-सरकारी संगठन सुलभ इंटरनेशनल के संस्थापक डा. बिंदेश्वरी पाठक को आमंत्रित किया गया था।

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Posted by & filed under Africa, Articles, In the Press.


Extending its footprint in the field of low-cost sanitation outside India, NGO Sulabh International today said it will expand its operations to 15 African countries, including South Africa, to improve their sanitation facilities.

Addressing sanitation experts from across the world during the three-day 'World Toilet Summit' here, Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak announced the decision to launch intensive campaign in these countries soon.

"The situation in India is similar to the African sub-continent in matters of sanitation and Sulabh Shauchalaya Model can easily be replicated to improve sanitation facilities in these countries," Pathak said.

He announced that Sulabh is going to construct five public toilets, 100 toilets in schools and 500 individual toilets in each of the 15 African countries.

The countries include South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.

Around 2.6 billion people in these countries have no access to safe and hygienic toilets, Pathak said in a statement.

Sulabh has already trained sanitation professionals of these African countries, he said, adding that they plan to implement the technology in 50 such countries where the sanitation coverage is less than 50 per cent of the population.

The NGO also urged Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who had earlier announced plans to adopt Sulabh Model to fulfil his dream to provide sanitation to all, to take necessary steps.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, In the Press.


Linfen in China offers a significant lesson to Indian cities. It convincingly shows that simple, but vital things such as public toilets are as critical as any large infrastructure project to make cities liveable. For long, Linfen was one of the worst cities in the world to live in. But, in the last four years, it has turned around dramatically, improved living conditions and recently won the UN-Habitat's international best practice award for the Asia and Pacific region. At the core of Linfen’s revival and the reason for worldwide attention is the ‘toilet revolution’ that began in 2008. Concerned by the poor quality and numbers of public toilets — only 12 of them for a population of 600,000 — the local government constructed and retrofitted 200 toilets in and around the city. Smart design has changed people’s perceptions and about 20 million use them every year. In contrast, Indian cities, which are grossly underprovided in terms of public toilets, have not shown any urgency to improve the situation. For example, Chennai, which needs about 6000 public toilets, has only 714, and Nagpur, which needs more than 3000 toilets, has 318. Even the existing ones are poorly maintained, badly located and hardly used. This persisting neglect has led to woeful sanitary conditions.

Providing toilets to the 15 million urban households that do not have them is a priority. Equally important is to provide toilets in public places. They are an integral part of the civic amenities and those who actively use the city need them. Organisations such as Sulabh International have done well to build low-cost and easy to maintain toilets, but they are constructed more to address the problem of inadequate toilet numbers at the household level. What is needed is a scaled up and concerted effort to improve the status of public toilets. Designs have to radically change and turn this everyday public amenity to an object of civic pride. Anti-vandal fittings, enhanced safety measures and aesthetically pleasing colours combined with better location, good maintenance and recycling of resources would help meet this objective. An inclusive city begins with the public toilet. There should be ‘potty parity’ — sufficient numbers of toilets for women users — and special needs for the disabled must be accommodated. Local bodies should compel all road building and civic projects to allocate space for this purpose. They could also try innovative schemes such as the one practised in the United Kingdom, where the government pays private establishments to keep their toilets open for public use. The health of a city is inextricably linked to its toilets and it is imperative to provide them in sufficient numbers.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, International.


Durban, Dec 5:  Extending its footprint in the field of low-cost sanitation outside India, NGO Sulabh International is all set to improve the sanitation scenario of 15 African countries.

Addressing sanitation experts from across the world at the three-day World Toilet Summit here, Sulabh founder and renowned sanitation expert Bindeshwar Pathak said that in each of the 15 African countries, the NGO would construct five public toilets, 100 toilets in schools and 500 individual toilets. 

The countries include South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Sulabh has already trained sanitation professionals in these countries.

"The situation in India is similar to the African subcontinent in matters of sanitation and Sulabh Sauchalaya Model can easily be replicated to improve sanitation facilities in these countries," Pathak said.

He offered his services to the governments of all African countries which wanted to benefit from Sulabh's expertise. 

Sulabh International also urged Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to adopt the Sulabh model to fulfill his dream of providing sanitation to all.

In the target countries, 2.6 billion people have no access to safe and hygienic toilets. Sulabh planned to help in implementing its technologies in 50 countries over five years, where the sanitation coverage is less than 50 percent of the population, Pathak said.

Recycling and reuse of human excreta for biogas generation is an important way to get rid of health hazards, Pathak said, adding that the US Army had also shown interest in replicating the Sulabh public toilet system for war-ravaged Afghanistan and had asked for a detailed concept report.

Till date Sulabh has constructed and is maintaining nearly 8,000 public toilets. While maintaining the public toilets on a pay-and-use basis, the surplus income, if any, is used for socially useful activities like running vocational training centres catering to the needs of wards of scavengers, and promoting health awareness amongst slum dwellers.

Three liberated manual scavengers from Rajasthan are also attending the summit at Durban – the place synonymous with Mahatma Gandhi, who stated the crusade against racism and untouchability from here.

During their five-day stay in Durban, these women who were earlier called "untouchables" visited also visited the place where Gandhi stayed over a century ago.

Sulabh, which has liberated more than one million scavengers in the country, had launched an intensive drive in Rajasthan's Alwar district about eight years ago and finally succeeded in achieving complete eradication of age-old practice of manual scavenging from the district. Later Tonk was also selected and declared a completely scavenging free district.

The former scavengers are now engaged in small-scale industries that prepare eatables like papads, noodles and pickles. The money from the sale of the products helps the women lead independent lives.

Despite Indian laws abolishing the inhuman practice of manual scavenging, an estimated 100,000 low caste girls and women continue to manually remove human excreta in the country. Manual scavenging of human excreta was banned in 1993 by a law that also prohibited use of the unplumbed toilets that necessitate it.

Pathak founded the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation in 1970. This saw the launch of a social reform-cum-environmental upgradation movement to tackle the challenge of sanitation-related pollution that leads to environmental degradation and health hazards caused by defecation in the open and the use of bucket toilets.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, India.

नई दिल्ली ! कभी सिर पर मैला ढोने वाली तीन महिलाएं अस्पृशयता और रंगभेद के खिलाफ आवाज बुलंद करने वाले राष्ट्रपिता महात्मा गांधी की प्रारम्भिक कर्मभूमि के रूप में मशहूर दक्षिण अफ्रीका के डरबन शहर में आगामी चार दिसम्बर से आयोजित होने वाले विश्व शौचालय सम्मेलन में हिस्सा लेंगी।

कभी 'अछूत' कही जाने वाली तथा स्वच्छता के क्षेत्र के गैर-सरकारी संगठन 'सुलभ इंटरनेशनल' के प्रयास से सिर पर मैला ढोने के काम से मुक्त हुई ये महिलाएं डरबन में आयोजित पांच-दिवसीय सम्मेलन में हिस्सा लेने के बाद डरबन के उस ऐतिहासिक स्थल पर भी जाएंगी, जहां एक सदी से अधिक पहले महात्मा गांधी रहा करते थे। इस सम्मेलन में दुनिया भर के स्वच्छता विशेषज्ञ शामिल होंगे। स्वच्छता आंदोलन का अलख जगाने वाले सुलभ आंदोलन के प्रणेता बिन्देश्वर को भी इस सम्मेलन को सम्बोधित करने के लिए आमंत्रित किया गया है। डॉ. पाठक के प्रतिनिधिमंडल में राजस्थान के अलवर जिले की मैला ढोने के काम से पुनर्वासित दो महिलाएं श्रीमती उषा चौमर और श्रीमती रजनी नन्दा तथा टोंक जिले की डॉली परवाना शामिल होंगी।

डॉ. पाठक ने कहा इस तरह के कदम से जातिवाद से ग्रसित समाज से काफी हद तक सामाजिक अस्पृश्यता और भेदभाव मिटेगा। यह जातिवाद और अस्पृश्यता के घने अंधेरे को दूर भगाने की दिशा में एक शुरुआत होगी। इस तरह का कदम मील का पत्थर साबित होगा। उन्होंने कहा, ये महिलाएं इस मंच से दुनिया को बताएंगी कि वे अब अछूत नहीं रहीं। ये बताएंगी कि अब वे भारत में ऊंची जातियों के समान ही समाज की मुख्यधारा में शामिल हो गई हैं एवं उन्हीं की तरह जीवन जी रही हैं। दुनिया भर के गैर-सरकारी संगठनों के लिए एवं सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य के क्षेत्र में एक विशेष स्थान बनाने वाले डॉ. पाठक ने स्वच्छता प्रौद्योगिकी, सामाजिक उपम एवं भारत में लाखों लोगों के लिए स्वास्थ्य शिक्षा मुहैया कराने के क्षेत्र में सराहनीय कार्य किया है। खुद एक ब्राह्मण परिवार में जन्मे डॉ. पाठक कहते हैं, हमारा मुख्य उद्देश्य इन वंचित लोगों को समाज की मुख्य धारा से जोडना और उनके भीतर सम्मान की भावना जागृत करना है। सभ्य समाज में आज भी मौजूद सिर पर मैला ढोने जैसी शर्मनाक प्रथा को समाप्त करना बहुत बडी चुनौती है। गौरतलब है कि 'मैनुअल स्केवेंजिंग' की कुप्रथा समाप्त करने के लिए 1993 में कानून बनने के बावजूद देश में करीब एक लाख लड़कियां एवं महिलाएं आज भी हाथ से मैला साफ करती हैं और सिर पर ढोकर इसे अन्यत्र ले जाती हैं।

डॉ. पाठक ने कहा कि उनका संगठन भारतीय शौचालय प्रणाली को लोकप्रिय बनाने के लिए निकट भविष्य में विकासशील देशों में सार्वजनिक शौचालयों का निर्माण कराएगा। मैला ढोने की कुप्रथा समाप्त करने के महात्मा गांधी के विचारों से प्रभावित डॉ. पाठक ने 1970 में सुलभ इंटरनेशनल सोशल सर्विस आर्गेनाइजेशन की स्थापना की थी और सामाजिक, सह-पर्यावरण सुधार आंदोलन शुरू किया था।

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Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, Sulabh News.

Experts Blame Social Conditioning; Suggest Hefty Fines On Offenders

New Delhi: While men urinating on Delhi streets is a common sight, the recent shooting of a 17-year-old girl who tried to stop her 26-yearold neighbour from urinating outside her house has shaken public consciousness. Although there is acute shortage of public toilets in the city, experts say a lot must be done to change the mindset of its menfolk. 

“It is social conditioning that has to be blamed. We must change mindsets a n d improve infrastructure. At present, there aren’t many toilets, especially for men, in the city,” Nirat Bhatnagar, principal of Quicksand, a multi-disciplinary innovation consultancy, said. 

The consultancy along with WASHUnited has launched a campaign – Toilets Are Beautiful – in partnership with the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to eradicate the twin problems of outdoor defecation and street urination. 

However, many would disagree with Bhatnagar on one count. The erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi did construct some 700-odd urinals for the men of the city but completely forgot its women. And despite allocation of close to Rs 3 crore for women’s toilets in its budget, not a single washroom came up. Post-trifurcation, the three mayors – all women – did nothing to ensure that women have access to clean toilets. “We will do something about it. So far, there has been no proposal for construction of toilets for women,” Annapurna Mishra, mayor of East Delhi Municipal Corporation, said. 

In absence of public toilets, women often look for a restaurant or mall to relieve themselves. “When I am travelling, I prefer not to drink tea or water. If we must go, we walk into a restaurant to use the facilities,” Shweta Saxena, a garments designer, said. 

But with men using the public space, especially pavements, instead, it is the pedestrians who have a rough time. In GK-I M Block, the toilet built by the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi lies in disrepair. The traders’ association claims the new corporation is yet to issue a contract for its maintenance. “The toilet is close to a parking lot and the stench there is unbearable. There are two toilets in the market, neither is maintained,” Rajinder Sharda, chairman of GK-I M Block Traders Association, said. 

The ratio of the city’s population and number of public toilets is abysmal, experts say. There are fewer than 6,000 public toilets and most are not maintained. “Toilets are not on the government’s priority list,” Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, said. 

He believes the government should take up construction of toilets on an urgent basis but impose fine on offenders at the same time. “Though we have to construct new facilities, its maintenance is equally important to encourage people to use it. For street urination, in most foreign countries there is a hefty fine. It makes sense for we must penalize the people who dirty our cities,” Pathak said.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, In the Press, India.


AFP – With both hands holding the basket of human excrement on her head, widowed grandmother Kela walks through a stream of sewage, up a mound of waste and then dumps the filth while cursing.

"Nobody even pays us a decent wage!" she spits as she rakes mud and rubbish over her newly deposited pile, one of several she drops in the course of her working day cleaning toilets as a "manual scavenger" in India.

She and around 20 other women in the village of Nekpur, 60 kilometres (40 miles) from New Delhi but a world away from its relative wealth, remove the contents of toilets daily using just their hands and a plastic shovel.

Already illegal under a largely ineffective 1993 law, the government has promised to have another go at stamping out the practice with new legislation set to come up in the last parliament session of the year, which opens this week.

Kela and her fellow scavengers in Nekpur live in a handful of mud houses, isolated from the rest of the village. They are considered low-caste even by fellow low-caste Hindus and are seen as the ultimate "untouchables".

Discrimination has eased recently but still they are prevented from keeping livestock and are sometimes stopped from walking near powerful people.

"My life has passed doing this," Kela, a withered illiterate woman thought to be around 60, explained to AFP.

She started after she married — she thinks she was aged 11 or 12, but can't be sure — and is in no doubt about the undignified nature of her profession.

"The smell goes to your head. I often feel sick. After all, we are also humans."

One of the homes she visited was Parveen's, a widowed mother whose small brick construction and concrete yard is home to nine people and three generations.

The toilet — a brick wall around a hole above a pit containing ash and dirt — is emptied from an access point outside on the street, where Kela scoops out the "night soil" into her wicker basket.

"We feel bad about it," says Parveen when asked about the women's plight. "We pity these women and sometimes we try to help them."

She says she pays Kela one piece of bread (a chapati) a day and five kilogrammes of food grains a month. No money is exchanged, as is the case for other scavengers.

Nekpur, a few hours bumpy drive from Delhi, is the sort of rural backwater found in Northern India where the estimated 200,000 scavengers nationwide continue to toil.

Swarms of mosquitoes hover above open drains as naked or barely clothed children play on the streets. Buffaloes outnumber vehicles in the streets.

The new legislation modifies the 1993 law — which criminalised the scavengers — raising the prospect of an end to a practice seen as a medieval throwback with no place in modernising India.

The new law would prohibit the building of non-flushing toilets that must be emptied by hand, and prescribes a one-year jail term and/or a fine of up to 50,000 rupees (900 dollars) for anyone who employs a manual scavenger.

It also requires local authorities to monitor the implementation of the law and sets out tough sanctions if municipalities employ sewer cleaners without protective gear and equipment.

Men wearing only underpants and equipped with just a hoe and a wooden bar can still be found in some towns heading into the stinky depths of septic tanks and sewers.

The national railways — described recently as "the largest open toilet in the world" by a federal minister — are also often picked clean by the scavengers.

Bindeshwar Pathak, of the sanitation charity Sulabh International, says the legislation could prove helpful, but that the final test will be on the ground.

"In India there are many laws that have not helped so far, like (the one to prevent) dowry. Dowry cases are still going on, there is child labour," he said.

"It needs to go both ways: on one hand, the legislation, the other is implementation."

He says there has not been a single successful prosecution under the 1993 Act.

Other activists say public funds intended to retrain scavengers are held back because of bureaucratic inertia or corruption.

"In our democracy, it's a numbers game. If a community is small, no-one cares for them," said Vidya Rawat, director of the Delhi-based Social Development Foundation, which works with scavengers.

He says the only solution is for the government to find jobs for the scavengers, requiring an extension of a vast affirmative action programme which reserves positions for the low-castes and marginalised tribes.

"Rehabilitation programmes don't work," he added. "If a community woman leaves her work and opts to open a tea shop, no one will go to drink at her place."

The persistence of manual scavenging can be traced to deep-rooted factors which continue to afflict India despite three decades of high economic growth.

Caste-based discrimination and the notion of "untouchability" in rural India persists more than 60 years after independence hero Mahatma Gandhi called it the "greatest blot upon Hinduism".

Manual scavenging also points to the lack of investment in modern sewerage systems by a weak state which struggles to provide basic services.

A 2011 survey by the Central Pollution Control Board revealed only 160 out of nearly 8,000 towns had sewerage systems and a sewage treatment plant.

But the women in Nekpur are among the lucky ones in their profession, however, benefiting from a rehabilitation progamme with a chance of success.

Since AFP visited in June, they have been retrained by Sulabh and are now making soaps and candles, holding out hope that they and their children might escape a destiny of humiliation and disease.

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Posted by & filed under Articles, Delhi, Sulabh News.

The problem with ‘human waste’ is that it has become a much sanitised term and does not do justice to this story that follows. Even faeces, when used in connection with the digestive tract, somehow give the impression that a reference is being made about animals; or it may give a more scientific cover of putting the ugly issue well under wraps of medicine. On the other hand, the use of the more unsavoury four-letter word makes one look uncivilised.

So how does one talk about poop and pee without the glowers, grimaces, frowns and still make it a serious issue worth including in a conversation concerning sustainable development?

Singaporean businessman Jack Sim who founded the World Toilet Organization in 2001, to bring attention to the lack of sanitation in developing countries, said in TED Talk held in Taipei, in September, this year : “What we don’t discuss, we can’t improve”. Twelve years since, there has been a groundswell of global movement around the issue.

This year, on November 19, events will be taking place to break toilet taboos and highlight the struggle for dignified sanitation for a staggering 2.6 billion people without access to a clean, private toiletand 1.2 billion people (17 per cent of the global population) who practice open defecation. The theme of the campaign put together by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and the World Toilet Organization (WTO) this year is: “I give a shit, do you?”

So how do we talk about this issue and break the silence? If we can get past our sense of disgrace, a dialogue can begin, say many.

Perhaps it would be best to tell the story as it is. People may begin to look at it differently, even seriously, if they are told that globally nearly 5,400 children die every day due to diarrhea, (second to pneumonia) preventable if they had soap, water and a clean place to perform their bodily functions, most basic of human rights.

In 2006, it was estimated that 2.5 billion people did not have access to proper sanitation; in 2008 there was an increase of 100 million people to that figure. That is one in every three people worldwide or nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population without a clean toilet.

In South Asia of the over a billion people who do not have access to improved sanitation, nearly 700 million defecate in the open according to theWHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation 2012. There is often an omission of mention of the plight of a vast majority of women, who also defecate in the open, but have to wait until it is dark or before sunrise to relieve themselves.

But really, who gives a shit (pardon the language)?

In television chat shows, so popular in Pakistan, where the politicians banter and cry themselves hoarse to be heard, not once has any one of them had the courage to talk about the yucky issue of latrines. But then it’s a topic not even on the minds of hosts of these shows.

In Pakistan – according to the WHO – of the 173.59 million people, 39.93 per cent defecate in the open. If this trend continues, Pakistan will be able to meet its target of reducing to half the number of people lacking sanitation by 2025, missing the MDG target of 2015 by a decade.

In addition, given other areas that the present government is fire-fighting on a daily basis, it seems highly unlikely that they could be persuaded to spend on latrines. Militancy, violence, lawlessness, power outages and rising food prices seem to have consumed everyone.

“It is not a politically attractive area for investment,” conceded Mustafa Talpur, regional advocacy manager (South Asia) of UK-based non-governmental organisation, WaterAid.

However, even in times of considerable peace, sanitation was never on the radar of politicians.

But to be fair, there is less demand for sanitation than water from those who have neither. Thus politicians always prefer to have water schemes than sanitation. “Politicians want visible things and sanitation pipes are laid underground, and not easily demonstrable,” Talpur told

Even for those media pundits, who may give some space or air time to development issues, toilets remain an even less sexy topic.

When the Code Pink decided to support Imran Khan and travel to South Waziristan, in October, little did they know all what the journey would entail.

The Guardian was the only newspaper that saw it fit to mention that the gruelling journey by these “hardened campaigners” was made all the more nightmarish because they had only “one toilet break in nine hours”. It was perhaps one important reason why the 35-strong team of Americans opted to discontinue into a “chaotic” situation.

What the writer failed to mention was that for millions of women in rural Pakistan, and in South Asia, nine hours curfew is a daily ordeal.

According to the World Health Organization, of the 692 million people defecating in the open in South Asia, India accounts for 90 per cent with 626 million defecating in the open. Compare that to 40 million Pakistanis relieving themselves in the open.

But this year India has decided to actually walk the talk and carried out a series of events to address its poop problem unabashedly. They have even involved Vidya Balan, the Bollywood star of “Dirty Picture” to talk dirty in real life and make sanitation fashionable.

The central government is carrying out the Nirmal Bharat Yatra, and talks about toilets, taps and yes, the unspoken sanitary pads. It even tackles the shame and suffering of the 300 million Indian women because of their menses.

It started from New Delhi, travelled 2,000 kilometres across five states between from October 2 on Gandhi’s birthday and will culminate on Nov 19 in Bettiah, in Bihar with the “World’s Longest Squat.” The participants will squat, like those 1.2 billion people around the world who defecate in the open every day, and see who can squat the longest with observers cheering on.

But it’s still not too late for Pakistan to join in.

For starters, it would be good to have people pledge to the case. It would be a great opportunity for many advocates like Talpur to clamour for governments to start thinking about how to interject the development discourse with sanitation.

Without proper sanitation, the country will not be able to achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, empower women, or reduce child mortality.

And while there are many good policies and programmes and no dearth of political commitments at global and regional level, Talpur lamented these “promises are seldom kept.”

If nothing else, maybe hitting where it hurts most – the purse strings. In 2006, it was estimated that in Pakistan, the total economic impact of inadequate sanitation amounted to a loss of Rs 343.7 billion or about 3.9 per cent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to a report by World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme.

For the moment, said Talpur, there are no clear and separate investment plans or budget for sanitation. “Sanitation budget is lumped with water when there is need for not just clear institutional responsibility but a clear sanitation budget line and increased allocation.”

What’s even more unfortunate, the civil society is far too weak to make decision makers accountable. Despite strong link of sanitation to other development areas including education, gender equality, nutrition, it is never considered a cross-cutting theme.

The missing link between sanitation and education, too, needs to be addressed. Despite enough evidence that inadequate sanitation brings major disease burden and child mortality, the health sector hardly talks about toilets. “They will talk about the curative while completely disregarding the preventive part of health care system,” said Talpur.

He said the education sector that should build the foundations of behaviour, designs schools with complete disregard for school toilets and where there are toilets, they are in a state of disrepair or not functioning.

The author is a freelance journalist.

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