Could this eco-friendly loo rid SA's schools of pit toilets?

2019-08-07 05:36
Some of the toilets installed at schools in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Some of the toilets installed at schools in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape. (PHOTO: Supplied)

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A new eco-friendly toilet that uses only one to two litres of water per flush could be an affordable alternative to pit toilets at South African schools where there is basic water availability. 

Since February, 76 Eaziflush toilets have been installed at nine schools in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape as part of a privately funded project.

The schools all had inadequate ablution facilities, using mostly dilapidated pit toilets in crumbling structures.

Project manager Billy Qiqimana told News24 the toilets were approved and adopted as a form of decent and sustainable technology for rural sanitation by the Water Research Council of South Africa (WRC) and Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation in 2015.

Its adaptation for South Africa has been researched and tested in the field since 2010 by the engineering company Partners in Development, working on behalf of the WRC.

It also has the Department of Science and Technology's stamp of approval. 

"The [rudimentary] pit toilet system is not a decent, dignified and sustainable system. You can't have it near your home, it is unsafe, especially to children. To maintain it is difficult as well. When it is full, the contents are hard to remove from the pit and includes objects such as nappies or tampons. 

Bridges the gap

"This pour/flush toilet bridges the gap between pit toilets and conventional flushing toilets. You get the benefit of a flushing unit by using recycled water, or what we call grey water. This is water that people use to wash, or that you harvest from rain."

This water is stored in large plastic water tanks. Other sources of water are boreholes or municipal water delivered by trucks. 

"Most of these rural areas don't have running water. With these toilets, people can use recycled water and a flush uses between one and two litres of water. Unlike pit toilets, you can have one inside your house, or in a building close by, as opposed to pit toilets."

Maintenance is also much easier than the pit system, and the contents can easily be removed, says Qiqimana.

"The lifespan of that leach pit is seven to 12 years, which is equivalent to that of a VIP (ventilated improved pit) mobile toilet." 

toilet

Plastic tanks supply water to the new toilets that were installed at schools in Lady Frere. (Supplied)

"People in the rural areas love it. They call it 'the safe toilet' because they don't have to accompany children who want to use it."

Though similar in cost as VIP toilet units, the cost of maintaining Eaziflush toilets is far cheaper. 

Following the completion of the project at the nine schools in the Eastern Cape, Qiqimana hopes to get more involvement from the government. 

"The schools are over the moon about these toilets."

Department of Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said he would follow up with regional officials as he was not aware of the project. 

Jay Bhagwan, executive manager for water use and waste management at the WRC, said while the WRC does not do any technology approval, the Eaziflush is a derivative of a public-domain innovation called pour/low flush, which emanated from a WRC-funded study.

"We have not been part of the Lady Frere projects," Bhaghwan said.

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