Toilets, Theatre, Terminals, Tears: And not a drop to think

Pratima H

Being  jolted with out-of-the-blue water-inspired interiors in the new incarnation of Mumbai International Terminal could be a new feeling for many travellers lately.

Like passing around installations (courtesy  film director Shekhar Kapur) that invite you to touch, push and fee those antique stone spouts found in temples. As passengers walk past, touch the spouts, happy to hear a different musical note with each one, little do they acknowledge that they are in a country that is full of ecosanmany water-taps of jolts.

This week saw many suddenly trumpeting, browbeating and piggybacking on that holier-than-thou Water Day.

Statistics were vomited, alarms were rung noisily again and high-profile gatherings organised to celebrate the irony we live in today in the face of abject water realities.

What actually caught attention for our desk was the toilet side of water table and some action being flushed down this road.

Comedian Kapil is not all humor when he cracks nation’s and media’s obsession with pooping pulp. He may have a deeper pipe to hit here.

Scientists and toilet innovators are working on the same conduit in their attempt to achieve some tough goals on water scarcity and urban growth.

Some of them accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to reinvent the toilet and showcased some ideas this week as they tried to squat right on the challenge to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity, and produce a usable product at low cost.

Are our water worries and sanitation troubles not connected close than they appear?

The annual global cost of poor sanitation could be $260 billion, with India alone spilling over $54 billion as per some World Bank estimates.

It is not so funny to hear that 640 million people defecate in the open and produce a stunning 72,000 tons of human waste each day. What’s ironically ridiculous is that pooping in public is acceptable across the country and you can think of practically any place, from railway tracks, open fields to footpaths where this is happening.

At the same time diarrheal diseases kill 700,000 children every year, standing hapless for the want of better sanitation in the condition.

Media ports like Khaleej Times or Huffington Post have cited and brought many dichotomies to the water issue and incidental problems.

In an effort to urge rural communities to build toilets, last year a $1.6 billion program was launched as per some reports.

Issues with flush toilets, habitats in water-stressed areas, lack of sewage pipes or treatment plants are just one drop of the vast water body of inhibitors. And we haven’t yet started talking of political will.

ecosan2Toilet fairs like these at least try to face the quagmire with ideas like solar biochar, power waste treatment, fertiliser generation etc

United Nations declared March 22 World Water Day in 1993 with the idea that a different water-related issue would be tapped.

It was about the domino effect between water and energy shortages this year.

The day also served as a reminder that water-borne illnesses cost the Indian economy 73 million working days per year and developing countries, find about 80 per cent of illnesses linked to poor water conditions and lack of proper sanitation.

By the way, it’s the same place where little girls still walk cruel stretches of miles and miles to fetch their homes a pail of not-so-potable/portable water. The same place, where you, I and many others would have inadvertently wasted a tap-of-running-water as we brushed our teeth today.

Shekhar Kapur’s upcoming movie ‘Water’, despite all the criticism of being an expensive affair itself, would hopefully open more fountains of thought, cognizance and action – and this time beyond swish airport terminal walls.


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