Around 300 special 'eco-sanitation toilets' are to be constructed before the rainy season in flood-prone areas of Bihar in a bid to prevent spread of water-borne diseases so common at that time in the state.
With over a month left for the monsoons, the Bihar Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development (BIPARD) and Unicef are working together to construct these special toilets in eight flood-prone districts.
"We plan to construct 300 eco-sanitation toilets in these districts," Sanjay Pandey, coordinator, centre for disaster management, BIPARD, told IANS over telephone.
These toilets, also called a composting model, are built on raised platforms to prevent groundwater contamination. It has three openings and separates faecal matter from urine, Pandey explained.
"It is designed in such a fashion that the toilet has no contact with ground water," he said.
This is the first time such toilets, which have been used during floods in Laos, Cambodia and China, are being built anywhere in Bihar, he added.
The districts selected for the first phase, which officials say will be completed by July, are Muzaffarpur, Begusarai, Samastipur, Khagaria, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, Madhubani and East Champaran districts. If successful, these toilets will be built in other districts as well.
Pandey said the estimated cost of constructing an eco-sanitation toilet was between Rs.4,500 and Rs.5,000.
"It may be little costlier than a normal toilet, but it will be eco-friendly during floods," he said.
Every year, heavy rains inundate hundreds of villages and affect over five million people. While hundreds die, many are rendered homeless.
With villages submerged, people are forced to use open, flooded fields to defecate.
According to Pandey, eco-sanitation toilets aim at not disturbing the ecological balance.
"It is the only alternative available for flood-prone areas because toilets built last year (by some NGOs) hardly worked," he said. "We are trying to promote hygiene and sanitation by providing these toilets."