Baños EcoSan: una alternativa al saneamiento convencional en lugares vulnerables

12 September 2014

WaterAid India ha estado experimentando con tecnologías que responden a las necesidades específicas de las comunidades de una zona determinada. Con la ayuda de nuestros socios, uno de estos esfuerzos está en marcha en el distrito de Korba, en el estado de Chhattisgarh, donde algunas zonas tienen un nivel freático alto. Esta característica geológica supone un alto riesgo de fracaso para los inodoros de fosa de lixiviación debido a la contaminación del agua, lo que llevó a nuestros socios a explorar la posibilidad de introducir inodoros EcoSan en las zonas afectadas. La intervención inicial fue en un puñado de familias de un pueblo, y luego se amplió. 

A photo of the inside of an EcoSan toilet.
El interior de un inodoro EcoSan.

The EcoSan system

The EcoSan toilet is a closed system that does not need water, so is an alternative to leach pit toilets in places where water is scarce or where the water table is high and the risk of groundwater contamination is increased. The toilet is based on the principle of recovery and recycling of nutrients from excreta to create a valuable resource for agriculture. 

When the pit of an EcoSan toilet fills up it is closed and sealed. After about eight to nine months, the faeces are completely composted to organic manure and can be used on farms. When the first pit is closed, users can switch to using the second pit. 

After a successful demonstration in one village, acceptance of the technology has increased and communities have asked for EcoSan toilets to be built in five other panchayats of Korba. The fact that people in these communities have contributed up to 40% of the cost is further proof of the acceptance the technology enjoyed. 

We initially used poly-fibre squatting pans for the EcoSan toilets, but because these were not available in Chhattisgarh and had to be purchased from another state the cost per toilet increased to around 16,000 rupees. This cost was not viable, because it made it difficult to get support from the Government's Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan programme (formerly the Total Sanitation Campaign), which can provide up to 10,000 rupees for the construction of household toilets. 

To ensure the sustainability of these toilets it was therefore important to reduce the unit cost. Thus, instead of procuring the traditional poly-fibre pans, masons were trained to construct the floor of the toilets as EcoSan pans. This in-situ construction reduced costs substantially to just 12,000 rupees per unit, which could be further decreased by reducing the size of the pit, building the super-structure from locally available material such as bamboo, or making super-structure walls thinner. Together, these changes brought the cost within the range required by the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan programme.

A photo of a family outside their EcoSan toilet in a village in India.
Una familia fuera de su baño EcoSan.

Future lessons

The processes used to encourage families to first accept the concept and thereafter get them to use a different model of toilet have provided us with some definitive learning points: 

  • The leach pit toilet, which is seen as a sustainable option for rural areas in general, is useless in this type of context. 
  • Because construction and use of EcoSan toilets are very different from conventional toilets, intensive training must be given to the mason, users and supervisory staff for a successful outcome. 
  • Post-construction monitoring is crucial for at least one year so the family can learn processes such as when to close the first chamber and start using the second one and when to remove the compost. If there is a mistake in any one of the three steps, the system will not work. 
  • Sustained information, education and communication work is necessary to remove social prejudices. Live examples are best and can instill confidence. After the failure of leach pit toilets in the village, the community was uncertain when the option of EcoSan toilets was put before them, but, when one was built and used and they saw the impact, they were gradually convinced.