In India, nearly 600 million people lack access to adequate sanitation, clean water and proper sewage infrastructure. As a result, they are forced to defecate in the open and are exposed to a number of health and social problems.

Open defecation leads to contamination of food and water, transmitting diarrhea-related diseases. It can also cause mental and cognitive stunting in young children. Now more than ever, we need low-cost, easy-to-operate alternatives to traditional waste disposal models.

Mobius Foundation has collaborated with ‘Logical Indian’ and Marta Vanduzer Snow to set up eco toilets in the villages of Uttar Pradesh.

Marta is an American native living in India, working in the villages of UP under the project name, Better Village Better World. So far, she has built 143 cost-efficient eco toilets, and 10 ft wide and 122 mtr long permeable roads and French drains that help in rainwater harvesting. Mobius Foundation funded her efforts in village Jagatpur, Uttar Pradesh and helped set up 5 demonstration units of eco toilets in village Kakrana, Dhaulana, Ghaziabad in October 2018.

Eco-friendly toilets are low-maintenance, safe and hygienic. The scientific model followed by these toilets is called evapotranspiration, which is self-cleansing and requires less land. These green toilets also help in generating awareness about sanitation among the masses and gaining community support, hence helping our ultimate goal of a sustainable India.

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, broken bricks and recycled materials are used wherever possible, including fly ash bricks and used tires. The toilet has a low operational cost as well; it needs only the occasional cleaning of the squatting platform.

On the other hand, 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 fecal matter enter the soil, causing health issues. The evapotranspiration toilet is self-cleaning, i.e. the waste is filtered without human intervention.

Eco toilets are on-site sanitation systems for chemical and biological treatment, and reuse of household black-water. It was developed and popularised over two decades by permaculture practitioners in different countries, especially U.S.A and Brazil.

Together, the substructure layers use 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-standpipe. 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.