Why twin pit toilets?


The district of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu is promoting the construction of twin pit toilets, as a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) campaign to free its villages from the age-old practice of open defecation.  Towards this, it is creating awareness among the village communities and supporting them in construction of the same.

Why twin pit toilets, you may ask.  Before we get to that, it is important to know the disadvantages of septic tanks.

Septic tanks

A septic tank is a chamber made of concrete, fibreglass, PVC or plastic, into which domestic wastewater (sewage) flows.  It can be quite expensive to build a proper septic tank.  After a few years, when the septic tank gets filled, it needs to be emptied by a special septic tank cleaning vehicle that pumps out the faecal matter which has to then be safely disposed off at a sewage treatment plant.  However, this does not happen in many cases as vehicle operators dispose the waste into fields, water bodies or open spaces, contaminating those areas, and increase the threat of disease to those in the vicinity.

To avoid such practical issues, the government while discouraging the use of septic tank toilets is promoting the use of twin pit toilets, particularly in the rural areas.

Twin pit toilets

Twin pit toilets are scalable, implementable and cost-effective; and therefore can have a great impact in making rural India open defecation free (ODF).   Further at a cost of Rs. 12,000, they are easy to use and make.  They comprise of two pits, each measuring 3.5 feet deep and one metre in diameter; the distance between them being one metre.

When twin pit toilets are used, fecal matter will be allowed to pass and settle in one pit only.  When that pit is filled in about four to five years, the channel to the first pit is closed and the second opened for the fecal matter to pass into.  After a one year rest period, the content of the first pit will be converted into manure and can be removed and used for plants.  The same procedure is followed when the second pit gets filled.

Breaking myths

In Kanchipuram, along with promoting construction of twin pit toilets, many activities that focus on behaviour change have been carried out.  One among them is the emptying of twin pits, following the example of the Secretary, MDWS, and Actor Akshay Kumar.  Recently, project director, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA), Kanchipuram, Mr. V Jayakumar, removed compost from the pit from a household toilet in view of the entire village community, showing them through action how easy and harmless the act was.

By doing so, he broke the myth many people had about twin pit toilets. After this incident, most people have cast aside their doubts and have come forward to have twin pit toilets constructed in their homes.

Currently, the district has appointed one motivator in every panchayat, who is facilitating the building of twin pit toilets.

Behaviour change

In addition, convergence of sanitation activities with other departments such as education, rural development, social welfare and health is showing positive results.  It has also been established that school children are vital agents for change as they create awareness about toilets among the rural community through interpersonal communication (IPC).  For their benefit, with assistance of school teachers, essay and drawing competitions regarding toilet usage are conducted periodically.

Kanchi1  Kanchi2

Further, over the past year, the district has been carrying out many sanitation activities, including training of motivators.  In order to ensure regular usage of toilets, sanitation cards have been issued to every household, through which toilet usage is being monitored.

Anganwadi workers, village health nurses, motivators from self-help groups are other agents of change, involved in creating a demand for twin pit toilets.  Also, banners about twin pit toilets are kept at every government institution in the district like the collector’s office, primary healthcare facilities, schools and panchayat offices.

By Sankar N (ZSBP-Kanchipuram)

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