India to put an end to public defecating

If you travel through India there’s a couple of bodily-function issues you might notice (outside your own, that is). One is that there’s a large poor population that doesn’t have access to any form of plumbing. Railroad tracks tend to become the local slum toilet — at least that’s what I noticed while traveling by rail. The other is that areas where public toilets are in place, the stench is often overwhelming (I’m thinking back to some roadside urinals I constantly passed en route to my guesthouse in Delhi).

The World Health Organization estimates that 2.6 million people live without access to a proper toilet, and more than half that number live in India. It’s difficult to imagine a solution to a problem that huge, but India is working on it. The government aims to eradicate “open-air defecating” by 2012, promised Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad at the World Toilet Summit.

Only problem is, he didn’t say how.

Read the report here.

More toilets in India: the Museum of Toilets

Martha’s post on the World Toilet Summit in New Delhi reminded me of the one museum I wanted to go to in New Delhi, but never took the time. The Museum of Toilets is wonderful, according to a good friend of mine. He went on and on about it. The museum is a lot more than one toilet after another. As you might imagine, there’s a huge history about toilets that dates back to 2500 B.C. when the world’s first drainage system was put in. Taxes on toilets first happened in 69 A.D. and the first public toilet showed up in 1214 A.D.

And if you’ve ever been to a bathroom showroom, even today, there are many ways for a toilet to flush. I remember when I went to Denmark, my first experience living in another country, I was intrigued by the way the toilets flushed there and by the rules of toilet use. In Denmark you put the lid down when you’re done. The Museum of Toilets also gets into toilet use etiquette along with toilet design. Toilet politics is another big topic–who gets to use them and who doesn’t. Who cleans them. I don’t know if this is included in the subject matter, but I just thought of it. How many bathrooms are in a house? Over three and the assumption is that homeowner has some serious cash. Two and a half is a luxury. (The one in the photo is a replica of King Louis IIIV from the museum’s Web page.)

If you can’t make it to the museum, the Web site is fascinating read. Along with the overview of toilet use and societies there’s a section that highlights the history of particular toilets, photographs included. There is even poetry. This verse was written in the Middle Ages about Paris.

“My shoes my stockings, my overcoat
My collar, my glove, my hat
Have all been soiled by the same substance
I would mistake myself rubbish”

With what to do with human waste a large part of every society’s problems, the museum’s subject is a serious one to consider.

India’s Hosting the World Toilet Summit

This headline sounds like it’s a joke, but it’s actually quite serious — The World Toilet Summit has plans to convene in New Delhi later this month to discuss the john, the throne, the bog, the loo — whatever you call it, it’s where most of us do our business.

But it’s the ‘most of us’ part that’s troubling the WTS — they’d like to make toilets accessible to everyone by 2025. A lofty goal? Maybe. But it would make the world a safer place — defecating in open places is one of the biggest ways that fatal diseases are spread. And it would sure make travelling a lot more fun for westerners who are particular about where they spend a penny.

So I have to wonder — by toilets, do they mean actual sit down toilets? Or are squatties considered toilets? I’ve seen some very nice squatties in my travels, but none is as welcoming as a loo like the one at home.