Bindeshwar Pathak receives Stockholm Water Prize

Bindeshwar Pathak has won the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize. As the founder of the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, Dr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide ranging work in the sanitation field to improve public health, advance social progress, and improve human rights in India and other countries.

“The results of Dr. Pathak’s endeavours constitute one of the most amazing examples of how one person can impact the well being of millions,” noted the Stockholm Water Prize nominating committee in its citation.

Since he established the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in 1970, Dr. Pathak has worked to change social attitudes toward traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages, and dense urban districts, and developed cost effective toilet systems that have improved daily life and health for millions of people.

Sulabh: A Simple device

The Sulabh technology is a simple device. It consists of two pits, used alternatively. After one pit fills, excreta is diverted to the second pit keeping the first in rest period where the excreta converts to solid, odourless, pathogen free manure. This does not require manual cleaning of excreta. In comparison to a traditional 10 litre flush, this technology requires 1.5 litres.

In an ideal situation toilets must be connected to sewerage networks. But, according to the 2001 census, only 232 out of 5,161 towns in India have a sewer network, that too partial coverage. The system is not complete unless a sewer line is connected to a sewage treatment plant.

As sewerage based toilets remain out of the reach of the majority in India, the challenge is to have toilets which are affordable, upgradable and easy to maintain.

Dr. Pathak will formally receive the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize at a Royal Award Ceremony and Banquet during the World Water Week in Stockholm this coming August.

“There are still 500,000 scavengers in India cleaning toilets manually”, informs Dr. Pathak. So, the task is not finished yet. He argues that nationalized banks must give loans to construct toilets, just as they provide loans to purchase fertilizers and seeds.