Ecosanitation


Sanitation problems are conventionally understood to arise due to some ‘nasty’ creatures created by nature, as if only to harass man. Man, being the supreme creation of nature, has developed ingenious ways to trap these creatures and destroy them or resort to mass poisoning of the ecosystem using chemical weapons. In this warfare, the target organisms die fast (but produce resistant organisms due to their fast breeding potential) while big creatures (such as man) die slow, by developing new-found modern diseases. It has now become necessary to understand the root-cause of these sanitation challenges and develop eco-friendly remedies that correct the root-cause.

In modern times, conventional focus on handling of garbage and sewage has been transport and disposal outside the community. This is a typical NIMBY approach - Not In My Back Yard. It is necessary to understand garbage and sewage as ‘wasted organics’, rather than ‘organic wastes’, since wasting any resource only causes pollution (alarm bells of waste-age). These organics actually need to be returned to the soil, their point of origin, to maintain nature’s cycle.

Sewage tends to flow by gravity and reach our water bodies such as underground aquifers, lakes and rivers, causing their deterioration. Areas served by sewage pipes need sewage-pumping stations and sewage treatment plants. History has shown that these are difficult to operate and maintain, and need scarce electricity. These are planned and installed keeping in mind an economy of scale, that is, big units being cheaper to install and operate. And finally, the treated liquid is wasted since it is released into a water body in the vicinity, typically river or sea.

However, we can use ecotechnologies to develop decentralized recycling units; these are more relevant countries in warm region where ecotechnologies work more effectively. They are also more relevant in un-sewered areas and villages / shantytowns. The recycled end-product is available for re-use in secondary applications with multiple benefits to the community and the environment. The organics being returned to the soil lend anti-pest protection and recharge (and de-contaminate) the groundwater. In addition, the water demand for fresh water comes down drastically.

(An abstract by Dr Uday Bhawalkar, PhD from IIT Bombay and joint US patent holder for his thesis)