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Toilet summit looks for sanitation solutions

The main purpose of the summit is to exchange ideas on evolving appropriate sanitation technologies so that the UN goals can be achieved, reports Srinand Jha.

delhi Updated: Nov 01, 2007 03:09 IST
Srinand Jha

Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals on sanitation is a huge challenge: almost one-third of the world's population (2.6 billion out of 6 billion people) does not have access to hygienic toilets.

Due to the lack of an organized sanitation system, 1.8 million children across the world die of diarrhoea annually and close to half the population in developing countries suffers health problems caused by water and sanitation defects at any given time. The World Health Organisation estimates that 200 million people are infected with schistosomiasis — a disease caused by lack of access to hygienic sanitation facilities. So what is the way forward?

Sanitation experts from 40 countries will attempt to find an answer to that question at a conference billed as the biggest international annual event in the field of sanitation: the 7th World Toilet Summit, inaugurated on Wednesday by former president APJ Abdul Kalam.

The four-day event is hosted jointly by India's Sulabh International Social Service Organization and the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization, with the Indian government as a supporting partner. The main purpose of the summit is to exchange ideas on evolving appropriate sanitation technologies so that the UN goals can be achieved, said Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organization.

Stating that reliance on septic and sewer tank systems cannot help achieve these goals, Pathak stressed on the need for technology that is indigenous and adaptable. Pointing to the failure of these systems to achieve popularity, particularly in rural areas, he said that in the last 137 years, only 232 towns were partially sewer-based while the septic tank system had not found favour with the middle and lower classes. In this context, he said, the two-pit pour flush toilet developed by Sulabh was eco-friendly, technically appropriate, socio-culturally acceptable and affordable.

The summit will deliberate on innovative and integrated approaches to meet the sanitation needs of people worldwide. It will work towards developing strategies, best practices and ways of development of effective partnerships between stakeholders.