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No Fear No Favour

Meet Marta, lady from U.S who had built 143 eco-toilets giving Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan a boost

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has infused a sense of civility among the citizen of this country by creating awareness of keeping the environment clean. This initiation by PM not only received well by the Indians but was applauded on the International level as well. In the direction towards the same, every people in the country are giving their contribution in their own way. In the same, Marta, an American native who settled in India in 2012 is not an exception in the same.

Marta, who started working in the villages of Uttar Pradesh under the project name “Better Village, Better World,” has now built around 143 cost efficient eco toilets known as evapotranspiration. Marta, who has built around 82 toilets and 27 solar powered homes till now, spends her own money in the movement.

According to the latest report of Seachhta Status Report 2016, 52.1% of the rural population of the country still defecates in the open. Uttar Pradesh has the population of 204.2 million and only 35% of its households have toilets.

Four years ago, Marta surveyed a village in Jagatpur, Uttar Pradesh and asked all villagers what they want for their homes and their communities. The majority of the households answered that they need toilets. Marta believes that “asking, listening, observing over time is key to understanding what people want.”

Marta is also a co-author of different books, research papers and has developed a theory for three-pronged strategy on development that incorporates health, education and the pieces of infrastructure.

“Based on my theory, I wanted a small scale model that I could execute.Through volunteering with Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna, I found two Villages in Amethi and Rai Bareli with a few active self-help groups. When I decided to learn about it more and more, practice and contribute.”

The toilet model Marta introduced is called evapotranspiration which is self-cleaning and requires less land.

Marta and her team brought the community together and communicated the benefits of every project they are doing in the village. Today, these small villages understand the importance of hygiene and healthcare. Children in the village are educating their elders to use toilets and keep the neighbourhood clean.

What is so special about Evapotranspiration toilet model

The total cost to construct one unit is Rs 10,639 while a normal toilet under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan costs Rs. 17,000. To curtail costs, they use broken bricks and recycled materials wherever possible, including fly ash bricks and used tires. The toilet has low operating costs, only the occasional cleaning of the squatting platform is needed.

Contrastingly, in the unlined twin pit toilet model, the toilet tank is filled with waste and later emptied. Due to the opening in the septic tank the urine and faecal matter enter the soil causing health issues. The evapotranspiration toilet is self-cleaning – the waste is filtered without human intervention.

It is an on-site sanitation system for the chemical and biological treatment and reuse of household Blackwater. It was developed and popularised over the last two to three decades by permaculture practitioners in different countries, especially the U.S. and Brazil.

Together, the substructure layers use the anaerobic digestion, capillary action, evaporation, and transpiration processes to filter, release and absorb the waste matter. Anaerobic digestion converts a portion of the human excreta into biogas, exiting out the back-stand pipe. The digested matter travels up and out through capillary action. The nutrients leave the system by incorporating into the plants’ biomass through mineralisation and absorption through its roots, while evapotranspiration removes the liquid, either transpiring through the plants or evaporating at the surface of the soil

So, how much toilet is effective

• User surveys: The team follows up with the toilet users, conducting several usage and performance surveys.

• An accredited laboratory, local government authorities, engineers and sustainable architects all reviewed the toilet model.

• The FICCI Research and Analysis centre collected samples from the toilets and all determined parameters tested within the permissible limits. Coliform and E.coli were not detected in the water hand pumps neighbouring the toilets.

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