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Sanitation is the means to enhance the health by prevention of contact between human and the potential threat to the health. Such potential health threats may be physical, biological or chemical components of waste such as human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic wastewater, industrial wastes and agricultural wastes. The prevention of contact can be achieved by using engineering solutions (e.g. sewerage and wastewater treatment), simple technologies (e.g. latrines, septic tanks) or by personal hygiene practices (e.g. food and kitchen hygiene, hand washing with soap, wearing shoes). When the means to prevent the contact between potential threats and human is achieved by the means which is financially, technically, environmentally and socially fit for a given locality or a community, it is known as appropriate sanitation. From 5-14 January, 2007 the British Medical Journal conducted an online poll to decide “the most important medical advance since 1840”. Sanitation (clean water and sewage disposal) topped the list which was followed by antibiotics, anesthesia, vaccines, discovery of DNA structure, germ theory and oral contraceptive pill, evidencebased medicine, x-rays (BMJ, 2007). This poll shows the importance of sanitation. Nevertheless, hygienic sanitation is still far-fetched topic for 38% of the world population (UNICEF and World Health Organization, 2008). Sanitation coverage can be presented as four step sanitary ladder: Open Defecation: Defecation in open field, water sources, bushes Unimproved Sanitation Facility: Facilities that do not ensure prevention of contact between human and human excreta. (e.g. pit latrine without slab, bucket latrine) Shared Sanitation Facility: Acceptable facility that is shared between two or more households Improved: Facilities that ensure hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact. (e.g. Flush or pour-flush toilet/latrine that leads to piped sewer system or septic tank or pit latrine; Ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine; Pit latrine with slab; Composting toilet)
Only 62 % of the world’s population has access to improved sanitation. A further 8 % shares an improved facility with one or more households, and another 12 % uses an unimproved sanitation facility. The remaining 18 % of the world’s population practices open defecation (UNICEF and World Health Organization, 2008). The target of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is to have access of 77% of world population to the improved sanitation, but the situation of improvement is detracting the target. Many developing countries have given emphasis to other various sectors rather than improving the sanitation situation. In this scenario, appropriate sanitation can play a role of catalyst to improve the present situation. Appropriate sanitation is derived from the term appropriate technology. Originally, appropriate technology was termed as “intermediate technology” by the economist Dr. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher in his influential book “Small is Beautiful”. In his working in developing countries like India and Burma (now Myanmar), the idea of such intermediate technology was conceived by Dr. Schumacher. In a 1962 report to the Indian Planning Commission, he described India as long in labor and short in capital; ergo, suggested the proper use of technology that also benefits abundant labor. Developing countries and least developed countries cannot invest large chunk of money in research as they are already beset by numerous problems encompassing poverty. So sanitation improvement is just a titular parameter in their priority list. However, these countries can borrow the idea from the developed countries and frame a suitable instrument to accomplish the desired task. So, appropriate technology (in the case of poor countries) can be considered as structuring a technology by the ideas borrowed from more developed countries that is financially viable; technically sound; environmentally suitable; socially acceptable. Furthermore, a technology that is appropriate for one place may not be appropriate in another place. It totally depends on what a locality needs with the limited budget using locally available material and knowledge from outside or within the society that maximizes the desired output. In developed countries, it refers to the use of technology and engineering that result in less negative impacts on the environment and society. Appropriate technology has a very wide application. It can be used in building construction, transportation (e.g. human powered vehicle, bamboo cycle for Africa, zero emission vehicles in developed countries), energy generation (e.g. wind energy turbine, photovoltaic solar panels, and biogas), food storage technique, Eco-village etc. Appropriate sanitation can be considered as a branch of appropriate technology that deals with sanitation and drinking water. It comprises various techniques like ecological sanitation a form of sanitation that usually involves urine diversion and the recycling of water and nutrients contained within human wastes back into the local environment in urban as well as rural area, improving soil condition for agriculture, drinking water (e.g. rainwater harvesting, fog water collection, shallow wells), constructed wetland and treatment ponds to treat the waste water, slow sand filter, UV filter.
LifeStraw is an epitome of appropriate technology in developing countries. LifeStraw is a water filter designed to be used by one person to filter water so that they may safely drink it. It filters a maximum of 1000 liters of water, enough for one person for one year. It removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of parasites. A person can directly insert the pipe to the water source and can drink water. LifeStraw has been praised in the international media and won several awards including "Best Invention of 2005" by Time magazine. Such techniques can not just help to improve sanitation and drinking water problem of less developed countries in large scale but also can be beneficial during disaster management. Disaster does not differentiate between developed and less developed countries. If large disaster strikers a developed country, it will have to start from zero level. To be back to phoenix from the ash it still takes time. So for the immediate recovery time from the disaster condition, the concept of appropriate technology (mostly appropriate sanitation to improve sanitation condition and stop epidemic) is beneficial. Features such as low cost, low usage of fossil fuels and use of locally available resources can give some advantages in terms of sustainability of appropriate technology. Effective management of disaster situation can also tempt developed nations for interest in appropriate technology. Collaboration of different countries developed and less developed can improve the sanitary situation of world as a whole and facilitate in making a better world. Appropriate technology (without doubt appropriate sanitation as well) can thus become a boon to make world a better place to live in not just for haves but also for have-nots.
1. Appropriate Technology, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermediate_Technology, viewed February 24, 2011 2. BMJ, 2007, "BMJ readers choose the 'sanitary revolution' as greatest medical advance since 1840", http://www.bmj.com/content/334/7585/111.2, viewed February 24, 2011 3. Ecological sanitation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_sanitation, viewed February 24, 2011 4. Ishwor Man Amatya class notes 5. LifeStraw, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LifeStraw, viewed February 24, 2011 6. UNICEF and World Health Organization, 2008, Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation SPECIAL FOCUS ON Sanitation, WHO Press, Geneva
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