Press Trust of India, Johannesburg
By Fakir Hassen
The internationally-acclaimed Sulabh sanitation project established by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak across India is to be extended to South Africa to bring these facilities to rural communities.
Dr Pathak was a guest speaker at the Gandhi-King-Mandela International Conference 2023 in Pietermaritzburg last week because the model he developed that brought not just sanitation but also dignity to women in India was based on Gandhian principles.
“Gandhi spoke about sanitation. In 1919 he said in India that he wanted a clean India and education first; independence later. So, I have invented a technology which has helped to have toilets inside the house. Because of the support of the government of India, every house has a toilet now,” he said.
Pathak said that they have also put up public toilets at places like railway stations, bus stops and police stations to solve the sanitation problem of India.
Those can be applicable and implemented in South Africa because it is a technology that can be implemented globally, he said.
This technology is 100 per cent applicable at low cost, because like India, South Africa cannot afford the sewerage systems of a place like America. Those technologies are therefore not helpful in solving the problems of sanitation in our countries, he said.
Pathak also shared how his project had empowered women and changed the lives of the Dalit community, who had been relegated to be toilet cleaners and removers of night soil, being treated as untouchables.
This also helped fulfil the dream of Gandhi to uplift the lowest people in society and bring them into the social mainstream, Pathak said, adding that he was elated about the great interest shown in his exhibition, which included a working small-scale model of how human excrement can be converted into a range of eco-friendly products, including safe drinking water.
Among the many posters displayed at the exhibition forming part of the conference was one showing how a Dalit woman had risen from her life of being a scavenger collecting night soil to empowering herself and other women to the extent that she received India’s highest civilian honour, the Pama Shree, from the President.
David Gengen, chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg Gandhi Foundation, said that talks have already taken place between the University of KwaZulu Natal’s agricultural division, the local municipality, the Indian Consul General’s office in Durban and the Gandhi Foundation to implement the system in the region.
This is a very important partnership which we want to roll out to our rural communities, Gengen said.
We want to bring Dr Pathak here to train people, but if we can’t bring him here, the Indian government said that they will send some people across to India to be trained there, Gengen said, adding that the same option will apply for training in solar power to benefit rural communities in the province.
India is one of the leaders in solar power in the villages, where they have a panel powering lights, computers and other things that has dramatically changed the lifestyles of the people in those villages, he said.
Gengen said this would be based on the Barefoot College NGO model, where women from villages are trained as solar engineers, entrepreneurs and educators to bring clean energy to their communities and share their own empowerment with others in their villages.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)