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India’s toilet diplomacy a hit in Kabul

world Updated: Sep 25, 2007 23:26 IST
Aunohita Mojumdar
Aunohita Mojumdar
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Mohammad Sharif is extremely happy. The former Air Force pilot’s work as a freelance language teacher keeps him on the road for most of the day, and he has just found a series of clean, cheap and efficient public utilities in his city Kabul.



The Indian government’s $1 million project for five toilet-cum-sanitation complexes, implemented by Sulabh International, is up and running. The complexes are already catering to between 4,500-5,000 users everyday. <b1>



Rohullah Arman is thrilled. He has the unenviable task of trying to provide basic utilities in the capital city of a country destroyed by three decades of war and Kabul, at the centre of the power struggle, has seen all infrastructure bombed to smithereens.



Internal displacement and unemployment has led to a population explosion in the city. Laying new sewer lines in the busy crowded city and catering to the needs of its four million habitants is an urban nightmare. The eco-friendly toilet complexes are just what he needs to take the pressure off the mushrooming demands of Kabul’s citizens.



For the construction of the complexes, Sulabh International has chosen some of the most densely populated areas of the city. The complexes are an example of what appropriate technology can achieve, and reflects a growing realisation of the need for greater use of regional technology and expertise in rebuilding Afghanistan.



Dr Bindeshwar Pathak,the founder of Sulabh International hopes the technology will be adopted more extensively in Afghanistan — pointing out that both the home toilet and public toilet technology can be used here. The lack of effluents and the biogas generated from the plant are even more important in Afghanistan, a city without proper sewerage systems and scant electricity. The user costs are extremely low and make it affordable for most residents.



Maintenance of the project is being ensured with the training of 35 Afghans running the project. The project will also be a learning experience for Sulabh itself.



No one is quite sure whether the design can survive Kabul’s harsh winters, which can plummet to minus 20 degrees. The only other worry about the project is articulated by Kabul Mayor Rohullah Arman. How can he ensure the funding to extend this eco-friendly project throughout his city?