Let’s get loud about sanitation

Talking about certain subjects like sanitation, toilet, urinals, water closets had been always a subject of secrecy, taboo. Moreover when subject comes to an innovation about any utility which changes a behaviour we are use to foe ages. There had been myths about many things which when proven useful by western scientists, researchers or big medical companies had been a matter of choice. Just to quote a few the cells in umbilical cord, Shivamboo chikitsa (urine therapy), saliva therapy etc. These things use to be a waste and untalkable. Discussions in these areas use to be a close group jokes, “Morarjee cola” was the term coined for urine therapy.

I met with a admin head of well known institute of one of the premier institute in Goa. We were installing our Zerodor, the waterless urinal in this institute. He seem to be joyous with the choice of installing it in his institute as he had experienced a water saving of almost 2700-3000 litres water in a week by his pilot installation initiative at this institute in just 10 urinal closets. Approximately 15 people using each urinal in a day for seven days. But he was initially reluctant to remove the flush from urinals as he was not sure how will student and faculty will react. Instead he planned to close the main supply line keeping the taps and janitors visibly present. There were EKAM’s communication stickers displayed next to these flush taps and janitors to create awareness.

I would like to get into some technicalities of this subject here, please bare with me. As the taps of flush main line went off there was initially some hush-hush and agitated sparks between students, some faculties and the housekeeping staff / supervisor. They had to face it for a while but when they explained the scenario the scene changed to better. There were curious queries to the admin head and I was a point of focus when I visited. I actually opened the lid of a urinal trap of the Zerodor attached in one of the pot with bare hands and the key after flushing some water to remove previous remains in the pot. The faces of present students and staff went weird watching a white collared guy putting his hand in the pot. When I removed the mesh and flushed a jug of water the float blocking reflux gases floated and the urine simulating water passed by to drain. The float again sat on its seat closing any reflux possibilities. Every one enjoyed it. So simple. Then I explained the next stage of technicality –

Hydrolysis (addition of water due to flushing water) of urea present in human urine generates odour in urinals (Reference: Udert et al., 2003a). The enzyme urease hydrolyses urea into ammonia and carbamate. The latter compound decomposes spontaneously to carbonic acid and a second molecule of ammonia (Reference: Mobley and Hausinger, 1989). The overall reaction can be represented as :

NH2(CO)NH2 + 2H20 → NH3 + NH4+ + HCO3

Being a technical institute almost all the crowd immediately could understand this technically. Now the present crowd was more curious with more questions. Ok what happens to the solid particles, hair, splashed urine, hygiene, bacteria etc.

I answered their queries one by one. Yes this stops odour and hence the name The Zerodor. The most significant side effect is that I am saving almost 2-2.8 litres of water with every usage. About the different types of solid matters apart from things thrown intentionally are cleaned by housekeeping staff every half day any way. So please help saving water by not blocking it by throwing chewable in urine pot. The pot and the surrounding is splashed with some fine droplets today also. So the schedule of wiping the pot and surrounding floor area with a phenolic mop is easiest way to keep it clean, you might have not noticed but this is a regular practice in a well kept community place toilet.

I also gave a small presentation stating research conducted and reported by Bristow et al., 2004; Blume and Winker, 2011. Reichardt (2004) reported that dry operation of waterless urinals between uses makes them hostile for bacteria and viruses. The author reported that use of waterless urinals reduces the risk of spreading of communicable diseases considerably because of the touch-free operation involved. A study conducted by UCLA and BioContractors (2000) to compare the microbial growth on conventional water flush urinals and waterless urinals, concluded that waterless urinals would not experience greater bacterial growth rates than a conventional water flush urinal. Two studies by Bristow et al., 2004 and Kay et al., 2006 reported that water used for flushing toilets and urinals leads to airborne dispersal of microbes, thereby increasing the risk transmission of disease in rest rooms.

This was a heavy dose of technical discussion and a simple answer was it is more safe and a periodic dry cleaning and a trap cleaning in a schedule of once in 2-3 days would keep it hyidenic and water saving.

The story was not this though. When we, a set of professors and administrative guys sat for discussing further plans the head admin ensured that there is no ladies around and the discussion room was safe to discuss more problems which may be EKAM can hep in tackling. The plumber, housekeeping staff was falling short though the numbers of housekeeping staff were sufficient. I asked why so? The answer from admin was please help us. We admire your Zerodor and are installing it across. But the real problem is our drainage lines are getting choked up daily. I was amazed. Daily? Who is the culprit? It doesn’t have that kind of rush?

The answer I heard was, “I am sorry but most of the women toilets are the real culprit.” He explained, most of the girls flush the sanitary napkins in the toilets instead of throwing it in garbage bins placed in each toilet. The only reason being an awkwardness in letting fellow student girls in the rest room knowing about the fact. So please if you have any solution to this problem please help us. We are referring it to you as you are in this business of sanitation and you may be technically right people to resolve it. There are incinerators available in the market for safe disposal but how to stop this. We conducted a lot of awareness programs, group discussions and drives to stop this behaviour.

I really did not have the answer for his problem right away. I asked for some time and left feeling happy (again I may sound weird) that I have another opportunity to device something technically to solve this problem. But on a deeper thought over night I think this is also solvable with a open mind and culture by talking sanitation freely. Its a part of our life. Men or women both tend to hide things for what I really am clueless. The same is the case about draining condoms and also its packs in the toilet blocks. If someone is making a mistake he should tend to hide but even at homes with official partners we are acting like thief. What do we achieve more burden on sewerage with non degradable stuff in it? Choked drainages? Spending on siphon trucks when it starts overflowing in our own compound? Now with new rules in big cities we have to have our own sewage treatment plants, maintain them. Can we not avoid spending more on their maintenance by being logically vocal about problems and innovations in sanitation? Can we throw wastes I mentioned above boldly but with due care in dustbins so that it can be safely disposed off. Just pack it in brown paper bags and trash it in your dustbin at home or at your institution or office. We care for some one will laugh? Does these natural cycles not happening to each man and women at their respective times?

Be bold talk sanitation!


– Sachin Joshi


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