According to official figures, almost one-third of humankind does not have access to hygienic toilets. This said, the UN Millennium Development Goals on sanitation seem a big challenge.
As organized sanitation systems in poor countries are rare, 1.8 million children die of diarrhea annually. Close to half the population in developing countries suffers health problems caused by water and sanitation defects at any given time, also. According to World Health Organization estimates, some 200 million people are infected with schistosomiasis (a disease caused by lack of access to hygienic sanitation facilities).
Sanitation experts from 40 countries will attempt to find an answer to this problem at a conference said to be the biggest international annual event in the field of sanitation: the 7th World Toilet Summit. It was inaugurated on Wednesday by former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
The four-day event will be hosted jointly by India's Sulabh International Social Service Organization and the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization. The Indian government will be a supporting partner.
The organizers of the summit hope to exchange ideas on evolving appropriate sanitation technologies so that UN goals can be achieved.
According to Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organization, reliance on septic and sewer tank systems cannot help achieve these goals. He stressed on the need for technology that is indigenous and adaptable.
Highlighting the failure of these systems to achieve popularity, particularly in rural areas, Pathak said that in the last 137 years, only 232 towns were partially sewer-based. In addition, the septic tank system had not found favor with the middle and lower classes, he said. In this context the two-pit pour flush toilet developed by Sulabh is eco-friendly, technically appropriate, socio-culturally acceptable and affordable, stresses Pathak.
The summit is expected to deliberate on innovative and integrated methods to meet the sanitation needs of people worldwide. It will try to develop strategies, best practices and ways of development of effective partnerships between stakeholders.