An Indian innovator, who plans to promote cheap toilet technology in 50 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East region, says his technologies could also help developed nations reduce global warming.
Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh movement, told the World Environment and Water Resources Congress at Providence in Rhode Island last week how his technologies could help achieve the Millennium Development Goal on sanitation, which aims at providing toilets to half of the 2.6 billion people who are without toilets by 2015 and to all by 2025.
Only India has been able to make a difference because "no country except India has appropriate, affordable, indigenous and culturally acceptable technology which could replace the need of a sewerage system for the disposal of human waste," Pathak told IANS in an interview.
Sulabh technologies could also be helpful to developed nations because they reduce global warming and save an enormous quantity of water required for flushing and also provide bio-fertiliser to use for agricultural purposes, Pathak said.
Pathak stated that he planned to open Sulabh Sanitation Centres in 50 countries in the next five years and to train the local people and engineers so they can implement the programmes in their own countries.
The process has already begun in Ghana, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Laos, and Cambodia. Besides maintaining more than 7,000 public toilets in India, Sulabh has also built public toilets in Bhutan and Afghanistan.
The engineers attending the Congress "were amazed to see how simple and affordable technologies of Sulabh could help to solve the problems of defecation in the open and manual cleaning of night soil in India", he said.
For the first time they came to know about the decentralised system of human waste and wastewater treatment in lieu of the sewer system to save rivers and water bodies from pollution due to sewage, he said. "So they were all unanimous to join hands with us to solve the global sanitation problem."
"In the 60s when I came on the scene in India, no house and no school had a toilet in rural India. In urban areas, 85 percent of people had bucket toilets in their homes cleaned manually or they used to go for defecation in the open," Pathak said.
Today, thanks to Sulabh, 63 percent people in urban areas and 57 percent in rural areas have access to toilet facilities, he said, describing it as "a significant achievement of the nation".
Pathak was confident his visit to the US would go a long way in showing the path of simple and sustainable technologies advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and British economic thinker Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher, best known for his proposals for human-scale, decentralised and appropriate technologies.
Pathak said the Sulabh technologies that he developed for household and Sulabh Public Toilets linked with Biogas and Effluent Treatment Plant are free from patents.
"Therefore there is no cost involved in the transfer of these technologies. Everyone is free to adopt them and they do not have to pay any money to Sulabh for transfer of technology."
Addressing criticism at going global, while vast regions of India still remain uncovered, Pathak said "as an inventor of technologies I want to serve humanity and mankind throughout the world".
He agreed that "we have to go miles before we achieve the target because still 600 million people in India need toilet facilities. But what is favourable to us is now we have appropriate and affordable technologies which other counties do not have".
"Along with assisting India, I am planning to go global because 2.6 billion people (without toilets) are not only from our country but from half of the world," he said. "Therefore my message and technologies going global will not create any hindrance in achieving the goal in my home country."