Welsonpura free from stench and diseases

Can innovative and appropriate waste management technologies work?

"We used to be appalled by the constant overflowing of the septic tank and when rains set in there was no way we can avoid the flow of dirt contaminated rain water. We were living in an awful smelling home environment due to the malfunctioning toilets which had maintenance issues," said Premawathie about how Welsonpura urban settlement used to be. She and her daughter live in the tiny house opposite the public toilets and septic tank.

a new Ecosan toiletAlthough located within the Galle district city limit the 210 people inhabiting Welsonpura were marginalized. The majority of this community who make a living as vendors or by wage labour did not have access to most of the basic infrastructure or service facilities such as roads or even adequate sanitation facilities. Only five houses have a toilet each whereas the rest use two public toilets (each has six units) by men and women.

The public toilets which were used by the community were in dire need for repairing and needed an effective solution to address the issue of overflowing of sewage from the septic tank into the neighbourhood. Rocky soil in the area made matters worse as then the absorption of sewerage from the toilets was impossible. Whenever the septic tank overflowed the municipal council did not have the available resources and technology and whatever available too were insufficient as well. Some of the equipments such as gully bowsers failed to reach the location of the public toilets as there was no proper motor able road and the toilets were located at a distance away in rocky area.

While being able to plan, design and obtain the voluntary labour contribution from the community to renovate the toilets the integrated urban development project of Practical Action also provided a lasting solution to the problem of overflowing of sewage by introducing a bio gas unit. Apart from digesting human waste the Biogas unit has provided the households the facility to recycle their kitchen waste (bio waste) after careful separation of decomposable waste.

Five families have access to bio gas which they purchase for a nominal sum of Rs 500 on a monthly basis. Among the five families Eshani Rasikas family is also benefitting from the bio gas unit. Eshani Rasika said she is"very glad to have access to biogas in her household as it brings her a saving nearly twice as much on firewood and kerosene for cooking. It's me my husband and three children who live at home." Further the Rs 500 collected from the five families contribute to a community welfare fund and is used for maintenance of biogas unit and the public toilets.

Living standards of Welsonpura occupants have changed positively through better hygiene, improved sanitation and through the biogas unit. Communities of Welsonpura and surrounding areas have come to understand that they have a duty towards keeping the environment clean.

Presad Ratnayake and Hasanthi Kahandawalas
Practical Action South Asia
Access to Infrastructure Services team

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