BW Businessworld

In 2015, 106.7 Billion Dollar Wiped Off India’s GDP Due To Poor Sanitation: Deepak Kumar Mitra, SATO

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Deepak Kumar Mitra, South Asia Regional Leader of SATO or Safe Toilets, discusses the problem of sanitation in our country, the innovations of SATO in solving the sanitation crisis and the need for behavioral change with respect to sanitation

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Access to adequate water and sanitation facilities is a fundamental human right, however, it is saddening to see that more than 300 million people practice open defecation in India, which is still an improvement from the 550 million who openly defecated at the launch of the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. With sanitation being a major health issue, and given that huge economic losses are borne by the country due to poor sanitation, it is integral that innovations in the sanitation sector are available to all. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Deepak Kumar Mitra, South Asia Regional Leader of SATO or Safe Toilets, discusses the problem of sanitation in our country, the innovations of SATO in solving the sanitation crisis and the need for behavioral change with respect to sanitation. 

Where does sanitation stand in our country? What are the statistics which indicate the lack of access to sanitation in our country?

India has come a long way in improving access to sanitation and toilets in the country. As per the government, about 300 million (30 crore) people still defecate in the open in India, a sharp decline from 550 million (55 crore) at the time of the launch of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. The government has also set the target of making the country open defecation free by 2019.

However, even going by the latest number, almost one-fourth of the population is still defecating in the open in India. This means that the government has taken a huge responsibility of making sustainable toilets available to the people, especially in rural India.

What are the economic losses to our country due to lack of access to sanitation and open defecation?

In terms of total cost, India suffers a lot due to poor sanitation. In 2015, US$106.7 billion (approximately INR 6.8 lakh crore) of India’s GDP got wiped off due to poor sanitation. This is equivalent to 5.2% of India’s GDP. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that US$1 (approximately INR 64) invested on sanitation would give a global economic return of US$5.5% (approximately INR 354).

Lack of access to sanitation cost the global economy US$222.9 billion (approximately INR 14.3 lakh crore) in 2015, up from US$182.5 billion (INR 11.7 lakh crore) in 2010, a rise of over US$40 billion (INR 2.5 lakh crore) in just five years. This figure constitutes an average 0.9% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the countries impacted by poor sanitation, which is a modest decline from 1% of GDP five years ago.

What are TPPF toilets and how has the government’s flagship mission, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan led to the installation of TPPF toilets? What are the challenges which exist behind existing TPPF solutions?

Twin Pit Pour Flush (TPPF) toilets are basically a system where there are two pits which are used alternately. The sizes of the pits could vary depending on the number of people using the toilets. Alternating use of pits every 1-3 years allows for natural degradation and composting of waste, safe removal, and the potential for re-use as fertilizer.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission, more than 47,000 Twin-Pit Pour-Flush (TPPF) latrines are being built every day in India.

However, there are multiple challenges that the existing TPPF toilets face in India since there has hardly been any innovation in the space for over four decades now. The existing technology uses 5-10 liters of water per flush due to inefficient P-trap. The junction box clogs frequently due to poor craftsmanship and the pit size is relatively small for flush volume that can fill very soon when the soil has low permeability.

As a result of these challenges, several people (especially men) continue to defecate in the open even after obtaining a household toilet, believing that this will avoid or postpone its eventual failure or breakdown.

What is SATO and what has been the work done in the area of sanitation under SATO historically?

SATO, a part of LIXIL, is a first-of-its-kind line of innovative, affordable toilet and sanitation products specifically tailored for rural and peri-urban communities with difficulties accessing safe sanitation. The products are designed to automatically and reliably seal open-pit latrines with an innovative self-closing trap-door that minimizes odours and the passage of disease-carrying insects, making the toilet safer and more pleasant to use. It also has a pit switching technology which enables the family itself to switch between two pits with ease.

In 2012, American Standard received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) for development of a low-cost toilet for pit latrines. This resulted in the launch of the original SATO pan. Since then, more than 12 lakh units of SATO products have been sold across 14 countries, worldwide including India, Bangladesh, The Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, and Haiti. 

LIXIL has set a target of improving access to sanitation and hygiene for 100 million (10 crore) people globally by the year 2020. Our SATO business unit is playing a key role in achieving this.

What is the innovation behind SATO which makes it a sustainable solution to the problems of sanitation?

The SATO V-Trap toilet system allows TPPF latrines to be constructed in a “V” configuration, eliminating the problematic “Y” Junction Box. Unlike the previous TPPF latrines, the pipes in SATO V-Trap are laid out in straight lines, essentially eliminating the possibility of clogging. Integrated SATO trap door mechanism eliminates P-trap and reduces water consumption by approximately 80%. The internal bucket can be rotated to easily and safely switch between pits.

Image result for y-trap twin pit pour flush toiletImage result for y-trap twin pit pour flush toilet

SATO is reliable. Its Trap Door Sealing technology has been tested for over 9 lakh cycles. This is equivalent to over 100 years of use for a family of five. These are among the most reliable products in the market.

It reduces the complexity of installation and saves masons’ labor time by a day. Thereby, reducing the overall cost of toilet installation by up to 10 USD (approximately INR 650). 

What has been SATO’s work in the area of sanitation in the different states of India?

SATO is currently present in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. It will soon be available in other states where there is an urgent need for a toilet solution that is designed for the people. We are working with local governing bodies like the Panchayats to convince people to use toilets. In addition, we are conducting training sessions of masons in the villages to ensure that there are trained professionals who understand the installation process. 

How does SATO aim to institute behavioral changes to find solutions to the problem of open defecation?

In order to ensure that people not just install toilets at home but also use it, we have to ensure that we offer them a technology that is reliable, easy to use and affordable. Through SATO, we address the challenges in the existing TPPF system in the country – high water usage, problem of clogging, complex installation and maintenance procedure. Thereby, making the experience of using toilets a happy and healthy one.

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sustainability sanitation Swacch Bharat Abhiyan

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