Motivated by their children, locals NGOs and architect Tallulah D’Silva, residents of Carambolim village are equipping their homes with EcoLoos.
Imagine using a public toilet along with five thousand villagers or worse, being forced to defecate in the open. This is the reality of Carambolim, a village in the state of Goa, around five kilometres from Old Goa’s World Heritage Site.
Carambolim is no ordinary village. It is also home to the famous Carambolim or Karmali Lake which is now listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and hosts various indigenous and migratory birds. But this lake is now marred by garbage dumping and seeping sewage water; with no option of septic tanks or sewage pipelines, people are forced to defecate around the lake or discharge their sewage water in storm water drains, which is an important arm of this lake and connects to the Cumbharjua backwaters.
In the last two years, things have changed due to a children’s initiative. This village now has seven dry toilets, which are eco-friendly and provide security and privacy too.
This idea emerged during a village child committee meeting initiated by Mitsuko Trust. The NGO based in capital city Panaji works to provide an environment for young minds to express their views and empowers them to participate in making decisions that affect their lives.
The children of Carambolim spoke about lack of toilets and the polluted lake during the bal gram sabha. They also hosted a Marathi play, Kuthe Gele Swatch Pani, in February 2015, narrating the sorry tale of birds who reside in and around Carambolim lake and how pollution takes its toll on them. Based on these activities, the Mitsuko team thought of building toilets for the community.
“We then approached architect Tallulah D’Silva, who understood the issue and thought that eco loo is the best solution for this place,” says Shyamalee Roy, director of the Trust.
To tackle the lack of funds, the NGO conducted sales and approached donors and trustees for support. The village panchayat of Karmali joined as partners and around 40 families listed their names as beneficiaries.
Tallulah, architect and founding curator of Global Shapers Panjim Hub, made many trips to the village to spread awareness about the benefits of EcoLoos and how it will help the community.
“As these people have small houses that are situated in narrow lanes, they do not have any sanitation facilities. They are have to use the public toilet which is very dirty and are just three or four toilets for five thousand villagers. The ideal ratio is 1: 20 means one toilet for 20 people,” she states. “So, they have these toilets which do not have septic tanks and the sewage directly flows in these nullahs giving rise to health issues.”
In the rains, many senior citizens, women and children would simply defecate on a dry paper and later dump it in the backyard. Tallulah adds, “We could not sleep that night!” This restlessness gave her the inspiration to find a solution to work for all—community and ecology.
“EcoLoo is basically a dry toilet and the ideal solution to areas that have severe water pollution, water logging or in areas that are dry. Paul Calvert and his Eco Solutions enterprise became our support system to further this not-so-new idea,” she says. “When I started researching further, I discovered that this concept of dry toilets is among the oldest systems which were practiced in Asian countries like India and China.”
The toilet has two chambers to collect human waste. After use, one has to add a mixture of saw dust, ash and a little lime. “Ash is easily available in villages and it also kills the bacteria. The main aspect is that as there is no water involved, the composting happens faster,” she elaborates.
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Water causes pathogens to increase and slow down the composting process. Besides the ecoloo being built above ground, waste water and urine are diverted into root zone pits to filter the grey water to usable water.
Once full, the chamber is left to rest for six months. During this period, the waste is reduced to compost which becomes an excellent source of nutrient for soil. “The villagers can even sell it and earn money out of it,” says Shyamalee.
The first beneficiary of this innovative setup was Prabhakar Naik; the loo was constructed at his house in May 2015.
Pravin Borkar, another beneficiary says “We are happy as all four members—I, my wife Rupa and our two sons are using it. My four-year-old son has now even learnt to put the mixture of ash and saw dust after use. Even our guests are using it as my wife gives necessary instructions.”
Tallulah maintains that the enthusiasm of villagers and their help in building these toilets, sometimes in cash and mostly in kind, has made this mission successful.
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The setup of the EcoLoo costs around ₹20,000 to ₹50,000. “We wanted to use long lasting materials and not make it low cost for the sake of it,” says Tallulah. As the model gains momentum, the NGO has begun to receive funds from CSR initiatives to build more toilets.
The Trust is now also working on building similar toilets in Kakra, another village of Goa. It is a small fishing village located near Panaji.