Talking shit and prizes

September 20th, 2013

Sometimes the most practical problems are ones you want to ignore. But you can’t! Getting rid of/managing shit is something we all need to do but maybe don’t want to think about. Here in the UK, for most of us flush toilets take everything away – just requiring a clean and an occasional visit from a plumber. For me, cleaning the loo is a necessary but not exactly looked-forward-to task!

For poor people in the developing world, things are very different and shit – literally – is sometimes all around them. Helping people get access to decent latrines is one important step, but with no sewer system and often a shortage of space, planning for the management of excrement is vital.

Just wondering if you are still reading this blog, or if the topic has put you off? I can understand why it would. But now for news – one piece good. the other interesting but basic!

Two things I’ve read today:

The good news is that Practical Action has won a prestigious innovation award from the International Water Association for our work on ‘faecal sludge management’ in Bangladesh.


4200There is a huge need for decent excrement management in Bangladesh. Just have a look at the stats (thanks Wateraid):

– About 80,000 tons of sludge are generated every day in Bangladesh
– 24,000 tons in urban areas
– 960 tons go to a water treatment plant in Dhaka

If you do the maths, it’s easy to see there is an awful lot of shit (I can’t keep saying excreta) around that’s probably not being treated – I make it 79,000 tons a day. Is that right? Sounds huge! Coming up with new options for shit management is brilliant.

The other thing I read was an article in Practical Action Publishing’s journal Waterlines. It talked about smell and how it’s an overlooked factor in sanitation promotion – basically people are being put off building and using latrines by the smell!  The report says that in Ghana, where 57% of the population use public latrines, foul smell is a major reason why people don’t build latrines close to their homes. And with public loos there are all sorts of issues around hygiene, proper management, safe access for women, etc.

I have to say, I get that – so if smell is a major barrier to people getting latrines, finding successful ways to empty them and so manage the smell is vital.

Well done to Practical Action in Bangladesh.

And while I have an on-going obsession with loos, two days off work with a nasty tummy bug has made me love decent toilets even more. So not a nice thing to do, but let me ask you to think back to the last time you had a tummy bug and remember how vital loos – and the management of shit – really is. You will easily understand why great shit management is vital!


2 responses to “Talking shit and prizes”

  1. Susi Batstone Says:

    Re smelly latrines – EM (Effective Micro-organisms) claim to counter offensive odours from anaerobic wastes when used in intensive livestock housing, so may well help with latrine pits which are invariably anaerobic. I have no link with the distributors!
    A better solution would be to generate fertile soil from the wastes (as nature would) by adding high carbon material and innoculating with beneficial microbes. A simple ‘one off’ collection device for users to poo and wee into, made from waste fibrous material with an absorbent lining would be cheap, clean and hygienic. Would need a distribution and collection system if no land nearby – but would fix carbon and improve soil fertility.
    Billions of units would be needed – and a Coca Cola style distribution network! As fertilisers get more expensive, it could even be a source of income for the users!

  2. margaret Says:

    Thanks for your comment! Will have to ask the team in Bangladesh about EM.

    We have a system in Bangladesh not too dissimilar from the collection service you suggest. Huge improvement particularly if the waste is managed – otherwise emptied by hand into buckets and then dumped (sometimes in river)

    In some places we use ecosan loos – dual pits where you use one until it fills up. It’s then treated and closed. And you move to using the other. In the meantime the contents of the first one breaks down and is used for compost.

    Totally agree with your point about solutions needing to be scalable. Need options so we can have the right solution dependent on the situation

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