The Peepoo disposable latrine bag, designed by Peepoople, a Swedish company, is the most recent addition to a few affordable options now available for solving one of India’s most daunting and disgraceful problems – more than half its population of 1.2 billion defecates in the open because of nonavailability of toilets.
There are already two versions of bio-toilets that are now available in the market. They are based on defence technology and are already being tested in Indian Railways. The challenge, and therefore opportunity, is to innovate the price-point at which these options are made available.
Unlike earlier, it’s not the technology or the cost that are critical factors in solving the problem. It’s finally the will, execution excellence and governance that are paramount. If these are in place, a public-private partnership could produce them at affordable price. A pricing model which is a mix of subsidy and an agreed margin is what is currently being tried in a few African countries like Kenya.
The Peepoo bags could cost around Rs. 2 per bag and a biotoilet Rs. 30,000/- per unit. Rs. 2 a day for a family of 5 works out to an expense of Rs. 10/-. The bio-toilet is a one- time investment and can be used by at least ten families. Also, the economic value of fertilizer from these toilets may offset a good part of the cost. In any case, the subsidy basket of India is huge. If used imaginatively, there is no reason why the public toilet problem cannot be solved in a jiffy.
The health, especially of children, and ecological benefits as well as saving of water could make these costs look silly. If human dignity is of any value, then there’s no reason why India should not be a country which announces a grand plan of ‘toilet for all’ in two years. There is some half-baked government plan currently on but they use conventional methods.
Before public toilet becomes another scam, public pressure is needed to launch the plan in a mission mode.
By Benedict Paramanand
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