The Sanitation Challenge of South Africa
The South African National Treasury’s Report on Water and Sanitation of 2011 highlights that the future sustainability of water and sanitation services is critical and must be addressed through the collective efforts of both the public and private sectors.
The Government’s objective is to ensure that all South Africans have access to basic water and sanitation services. Government has prioritised not only the rollout of infrastructure necessary for the rendering of these services, but also the provision of free basic services to poor households.
Whilst there has been a substantial improvement in the rollout of water services, infrastructure and the rendering of free basic water and sanitation, the sector does face some challenges going forward as implementation capacity remains a constraint. Furthermore, the sustainability of existing infrastructure cannot be neglected and is requiring more and more funding as infrastructure ages.
A major challenge though that has not been addressed nor provided for is the provision of public toilet facilities. For the millions of people using public transport daily, in particular minibus taxis, there is a tremendous need for safe, accessible, well-maintained toilet facilities. Sulabh International plans to address this challenge leveraging its expertise and insights gained from its 40 years in India. The solution will require intervention from Corporate and NGO’s working with Government. The benefit for all employers is massive whilst transforming the daily commute for millions of employees.
Provision of toilet complexes by Sulabh in public places on a ‘pay-and-use basis’ is now renowned in the field of community health, hygiene and environmental sanitation around India.
In 1878, the Bengal Government introduced a law to set up toilet facilities in Kolkata, however they failed to implement this on a practical-level, until a 100 years later. Use of public toilets in cities and towns was not perceived as popular however. Research revealed that due to the unhygienic and unpalatable condition of the public facilities, users were deterred. By providing clean, regularly-maintained toilets with bath and washing facilities studies revealed that individuals would be prepared to pay to use such facilities. As a result, Sulabh introduced construction and maintenance of public toilets on a pay-and-use basis in 1974; it soon became a national success.
In 1978, the Indian Government arranged a National Seminar in collaboration with the WHO and UNICEF in the state of Bihar.
The twin pit toilet concept and public toilet maintenance was discussed and Government representatives, Secretaries and Chief Engineers visited households and public toilets to witness their operation. It was unanimously decided that these technologies should be adopted by other Indian States. Twin pit toilets and public toilet maintenance extends across 25 Indian states with 7500 public toilet facilities in operation.
The largest Sulabh Public Toilet Complex is at Shirdi, a pilgrimage site in India, with 120 WC’s, 108 bathrooms, 28 toilets and 5000 lockers for visitors to lock up their belongings for the day.
Sulabh toilet complexes are conveniently situated in public areas, transport interchanges, hospitals, markets and in slum-areas where people live. Sulabh constructs, operates and maintains the complexes, managing the partnership between Government and people on the ground. The complexes are run by attendants in men’s and ladies sections respectively, with soaps and toilet paper provided and replenished on a regular basis.
This unique partnership between local authorities, non-government organisations and the community is an example of an effective model that uplifts the standard of cleanliness in cities and surrounding environment.