How Ladakh’s ingenious dry toilets are redefining frugal innovation in sanitationThink Change India
Known for its pristine lakes and snow-clad mountains, the Ladakh region in Jammu & Kashmir is a marvel. Besides its breathtaking beauty, Ladakh holds many little-known treasures and one of them is an unlikely solution to India’s biggest struggles with sanitation.
The 'dry toilets' in the region are the composting process where the human waste is converted into organic compost that is used to enrich the soil used in agriculture. The toilet is an ingenious two-storied system with the toilet on the top layer and the composting unit underneath.
After every use, it is recommended to cover the cover the latrine to accelerate the composting process. This toilet not only saves water and electricity in regions where there is a scarcity but also eliminates the need for sewage treatment plants. It reduces the maintenance of a sewer network, and the associated expenses. In regions where scarcity of water is prominent, the frugal use of water is worth noting. This idea has seen implementation in desert areas, and in rocky terrain, where it is not possible to dig for pits and sewers, as well as in coastal areas that are prone to floods, says Business Insider. These dry toilets come in handy especially during winters, when the temperature plummets.
Helena-Norberg Hodge, a Swedish linguist, in her book Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh writes about this, she says,
Each house has composting latrines consisting of a small room with a hole in the floor built above a vertical chute, usually one floor high. Earth and ash from the kitchen stove are added, thus aiding chemical decomposition, producing better fertilizer, and eliminating smells. Once a year the latrine is emptied at ground level and the contents used on the fields.
Over the last few years, the state has seen a surge in its tourist population. According to The Better India, from 527 tourists in 1974, the number of tourists has surged to 2,35,482 in 2016. To accommodate the growing population, there is a rampant increase in the construction of buildings, hotels, cafes and other touristy places and planning has been compromised.
The Centre has, however, set a target of 100 percent sanitation by 2022. While the initiative is yet to reach all corners of the country, this system in Ladakh has proved to be effective in more than one way.