Options for Rural sanitation in different
geographical and climatic conditions of
Rakesh Johri, Suneel Pandey
The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi

There are several technologies available for disposal of
human waste. Certain advance technologies are also
available which may not suit to the rural areas due to
its initial high cost, technical knowhow and operation &
maintenance issues. Solar- powered toilet and vacuum
toilets are few such examples. It is therefore very
crucial to select a technology based on socio cultural
and economic aspect of user along with hydro
geological and soil of the intended area. The twin pit
pour flush water seal individual household toilet are
successfully constructed and used in India. Bio toilet is
promoted mostly by institutions.
The cost of the individual toilet varies from Rs.1200 to
35000 and it will also depend upon the local conditions
including availability of material etc.
However, it is very critical to choose suitable
technology for disposal of Human excreta. There are
several technological options available based on the
hydro geological condition of the region. All sanitation
technologies can be described as either wet or dry. The
wet technologies require water to flush faeces. The

flush toilet is connected to a leach pit, septic tank or
sewer. The dry technologies do not require water for
flushing. The traditional pit latrines, ventilated
improved pits are few examples of dry latrines. The
factors that influence the selection of community
sanitation technology are enumerated in Table 1
below:Table 1: Factors


Factors of general
1. Technical factors
• Design preference



Factors specifically
relevant to O&M
• O&M requirements;

(substructure, floor slab,

• Ease of access;

squatting or raised seat,

• Use of decomposed

• Technical standards and
expected lifetime of the
• Availability of
construction materials;
• Cost of construction.
2. Environmental factors


• Pit-emptying technique.

• Soil texture. Institutional factors • Existing national/local strategies. • Potential involvement of the private sector. • Availability of subsidies and loans. stability. • National budget allocations for sanitation. • Control of environmental • Protection against pollution. 3. carpenters. plumbers. • Protection from flooding. • Pit-emptying services (municipal/private). • Groundwater level. • Training capacity. Community factors capacity. • Possibility of flooding. pitemptier and pit-diggers. • Availability of water. . • Availability of masons. sanitary workers. • Monitoring. • Training and awareness education. • Roles and responsibilities • Sewerage maintenance of actors implied. permeability. 4. • O&M implications for environmental protection. groundwater contamination.

depending on the affordability of the beneficiaries. presence of • Women’s groups. limited space and awareness for sanitation. There may be a wide range of superstructures such as masonry. . bamboo mats or readymade fibre glass etc for the same type of sub structure. schoolteachers. communal latrines. • Presence of environmental sanitation committee. tin sheets. religious workers.Substructure is technically important as it provides safe disposal or reuse of human wastes. Source: UNESCO adaptation of Brikké F. for latrines. • Social mobilization on hygiene and sanitation behaviour. Major technical inputs are not required for this component. • Health community-based health training awareness and perception of benefits.It is basically meant to provide privacy of the toilet. 2003 Every toilet has two major parts(i) Superstructure. • Other factors: population densities. leaders.. (ii) Substructure (Technology). factors: role of traditional • O&M leadership.• Social organization • O&M costs. and Bredero M.

leaving the superstructure odour-free. VIP latrines are an improvement to overcome the disadvantages of simple pit latrines. fly and mosquito nuisance and unpleasant odours. i. is a pit latrine with a black pipe (vent pipe) fitted to the pit. Unpleasant faecal odours from the pit contents are thus sucked up and exhausted out of vent pipe. The wind creates a strong circulation of air through the superstructure. are presented as follows Option 1: Dry latrine for normal soil with low water table VIP latrines:The ventilated improved pit latrine (VIP). across the pit and up and out of the vent pipe. . down through the squat hole.e. The principal mechanism of ventilation in VIP latrines is the action of wind blowing across the top of the vent pipe. The smell is carried upwards by the chimney effect and flies are prevented from leaving the pit and spreading disease. These options based on the hydrogeological conditions of the area and socio-cultural behaviour of people. the discussion focuses on technical options in different climatic conditions with respect to substructures.In this chapter. and a screen (flyscreen) at the top outlet of the pipe.

through pit toilet is most suited option. Various options in this category of toilet design are: Single pit/twin Pit Water Seal Toilet The Twin Pit Water Seal Toilet is a complete on-site sanitation measure at household level which.Figure 1: Schematic of VIP Latrine Advantages: o o o o o Low cost Easily built by household No need of water Easy to maintain No smell and no flies provided all measure are taken such fixing the mesh etc Disadvantages: o Darkness in the superstructure o Only works if oriented toward the wind o No surrounding obstacles higher than the vent pipe Option 2: Toilet technologies (Wet) for normal soil with low water table In most of the areas in India. on one . people use water for ablution and type of soil is normal. Under such conditions on-site sanitation.

its contents degrade completely and turn to solid. The main components of such a toilet are the two pits used alternately. Bottom of the pit is not plastered and is earthen. After 2 years of blocking of the first pit. Capacity of each pit is normally kept for 3 years. A diagrammatic plan two pit toilet is as below (Figure 2). provides continuous use with minimal maintenance. a pan. . after it gets filled up in about 3 years is blocked at the junction chamber and second pit is put in operation. it is similarly blocked and the first pit is put in use again. squatting platform. junction chamber and a superstructure.hand fulfils all the sanitary requirements of a toilet and on the other hand. pathogen free manure. water seal/trap. Under the system. odourless. The walls have honeycombed structure. Thus. After the second pit is filled. Both the pits are connected with a junction chamber at one end. there are two pits which are used alternately. Water part of excreta percolates in soil through honey combs. It is dug out by beneficiaries and used for agriculture and horticulture purposes. alternate use of both the pits continues. Depending on the number of users of toilet. First pit. the size of the pit varies.

Ceramic pan is used in most of the cases where it is available. People normally do not accept mosaic pan as the surface of such pan is not smooth on which the excreta sticks. Thus.5-5 lts of water to flush out excreta with 20 mm water seal. Trap/Water seal in rural pans is of 20 mm only. However. After some years of operation. It is aesthetically acceptable and requires less quantity of water (1. such pans require only about 1. it develops yellowish colour which is not aesthetically appealing to most of the beneficiaries.Figure 2: Pour flush twin pit toilet design Pan and trap/water seal: The pan used in the pit toilet has steep slope of 20˚29˚. it requires more water for cleansing. . it is not acceptable to many beneficiaries due to its colour. Fibre glass pan is cheaper. It may be of ceramic. Such rural pans are also easily available in the markets. Therefore. the system is also suitable for water scarce areas. lighter and easy in handling.5 to 2 lts). mosaic or fibre glass. Therefore.

Advantages of two pit pour flush toilets i. mosaic or made of fibre. when taken out of the pit after 2 years. Such gases are mainly carbon dioxide and methane.5 to 2 litr of water per use of toilet Digested human wastes. A typical drawing of water seal as given below (Figure 3). iii. ii. Gases produced in the pit are diffused in soil through honey combs. arising out of such Green House Gases. free from odour and pathogens. is semi solid. Thus the system also helps in reducing air pollution. v. Degraded sludge has good percentage of plant nutrients and can be used for agriculture and horticulture purposes It does not require scavenger to clean the pits. It is a permanent solution for on-site household human waste disposal It requires only 1. . iv. Figure 3: Types of water seals A pit toilet does not require vent pipe. that can be easily dug out by the beneficiaries.Such water seal may be ceramics.

it is quite difficult to dispose the sludge safely. Limitations of two. Consequently. even after the pit is emptied. It coastal areas also these toilets are not suitable at all. Moreover. pit gets filled in frequently. Bio Toilet (Bio digester) A. Toilet with Biogas plant D. It can be easily upgraded and connected to sewer whenever such facility is available in future Its maintenance is easy. Due to unavailability of mechanically devices to clean the pits. vii. In high water table areas. there is change of ground water contamination. b)In case of rocky areas. adjoining soil of the pit becomes saturated and further percolation from pit reduces significantly causing frequent filling of the pits. due to high water table. Toilet model for high water table B. A.pit pour flush toilet a) Pit toilet (single or double pit) is not suitable for high water table and rocky areas. Toilet model for high water table . there is no chance of percolation of water from pits. Ecological Sanitation based toilet C.Toilet with septic Tank E. it is not acceptable by the beneficiaries. Option 3: Toilet technology for high water table and rocky areas For coastal and other areas having high water table and also for the rocky areas the following technologies are appropriate.

This model of toilet is useful also in low water table and coastal areas. of chambers connected at the middle. The system consists of 2 nos. It may be brickcement or Ferro-cement structure. it flows through the covered drain to its outlet. the detention period will be about 20-25 days and so the BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) of the effluent will also be less. permissible to be discharged in drain or use for agriculture purpose. Cost of a Ferrocement structure is cheaper than the brick-cement structure. Bottom of both the chambers are sealed with PCC (Plan Cement Concrete).This model is more suitable for areas where people use water for ablution. During the use of the toilets. The detention period of the soak will increase to a great extent and for a family of 5 members. A typical drawing of the model for high water table is described in Figure 4) . Toilet seat with pan and trap in the design remains the same as discussed under two pit pour flush toilet. From this second chamber. human waste comes into first chamber and after the settlement it flows to be second chamber. This is also useful in rocky areas where water of leaching pit may not be absorbed by the ground.

whereas excreta are stored for 6 months or so. napkins etc.Following provisions are made in this type of toilet design: a) Internal size 0.20 m and 1. to degrade it and its use in agriculture (Figure 5). e) Doors of size 0. Urine is used in agriculture land directly.I framed with M.50 m depth up to ground level.37 m size. 20 gauge G. In the system. .9mx1. of leaching pits of internal size 1. Ecological Sanitation (Ecosan) toilet Ecosan toilet is more suitable where people don’t use water for cleaning and instead. Ecological Sanitation is based on the principal of minimising the loss of nutrients in human wastes and using such waste including urine.S thick f) Creates no waste g)Does not smell h)Provides no place for mosquitoes to breed i) Self-contained and can be totally managed by the family.10m b)Height of wall is 1. are used for such purpose. papers.75 m at back c) Roof cover is of G.82 m from front and 1. human excreta and urine are collected separately in containers. B.76x1.I Sheet/Asbestos sheet d)Two nos.

In a family having 5 users of toilet. More awareness and motivation is required to make Ecosan toilet acceptable at community level in rural areas C. However. only . It is suitable for all hydro geological conditions and in areas where people use water for ablution (Figure 6). Moreover. gives bio energy at low cost and provides better quality of manure for agriculture purposes. due to cultural aspect Ecosan system does not find favour in most for the communities.Figure 5: Layout of ecosan toilet with provision of separate collection of urine and night soil In Indian conditions. cost of the Ecosan toilet is much higher than the pit toilets. household biogas plants solely based on human waste for a family is not economically viable as the biogas produced per family is not adequate for any useful purpose. Toilet with Biogas plant Generation and utilization of biogas from human excreta and other wastes has three major advantagesit improves sanitation.

Quantity of biogas production from different feed materials i. Biogas production rate from . it can be made viable. Biogas from dung of at least 2 nos. However. biogas can’t meet cooking requirement of a small family. when mixed with cattle dung along with human wastes. if produced from human waste of a family. Figure 6: Toilet with biogas plant Design of biogas plant For a household level biogas plant there are basically two designs (1) floating drum type popularly known as KVIC model and (2) Fixed dome type. From animal dung. around 10 kg dung is available per animal per day. of cattle when mixed with human wastes can cater to the need for cooking for a small family.around 5 cubic feet (cft) of biogas would be produced per day and minimum requirement of biogas is about 40 cft for cooking for 2 meals in a day for a small family. popularly known as Deenbandhu Model. Therefore.

Such mantle lamps give illumination equivalent to 40 Watt bulb at 220 volts of electricity Can run an engine of one Horse Power for 2 hours Besides biogas. generation of bio gas from human excreta is not popular option. per animal per day 15 cft of biogas is produced From human waste. i. per person per day. It is directly used for agriculture purpose.6 cft. D. It is an underground structure made up of bricks. the manure of the plant has good plant nutrient value. iii.e.dung is about 1. Toilet with Septic tank Septic tank offers a preliminary treatment of sewage prior to final disposal. Utilizations of biogas One cum of biogas per day can be utilized in a family as follows: i. Per day per person only one cft biogas is produced. In different chambers wastes as settled and degraded anaerobically and the final effluent is discharged through outlet pipe of Septic Tank (Figure 7). cement or concrete. Cooking of 5 family members for two times a day Mantle lamps (2 nos) can be used for 6 hours per night. ii. 0. Due to socio cultural issues. Sewage is . iii. A total amount of biogas of one cum can be produced per day from a family having 5 members and 2 cattle heads. It has 3 or more chambers separated by baffle wall.35 kg of waste is produced and gas production from per kg of human wastes is 3. ii.5 cft per kg.

For rectangular septic tank. There is no foul smell with the system. For circular tanks the minimum diameter should not be less than 1-35 m and operating depth should not be less than 1 m. minimum depth of one metre below water level and minimum liquid capacity of 1000 litres. Total retention time is maintained for 24-48 hours only. the length of the tank is 2 to 4 times the width. The settled sludge and the supernatant liquor undergoes anaerobic digestion. . Septic tank has minimum width of 750 mm. The digestion results in appreciable reduction in the volume of sludge and reduction organic matter in the liquid.held in these tanks for some prescribed period during which time the suspended solids present in the storage settle down. Figure 6: Schematic of septic tank based toilet Advantages Septic system provides sanitary method of disposal of human wastes.

Cleaning manually is an unhygienic and unsocial. immobilization matrix and fermentation tank (Figure 7). it’s quite difficult to dispose it of safely. The microbial consortium has been . It is meant for onsite disposal of human waste by anaerobic biodegradation for single house to a colony. The simple yet unique single step technology of a bio-digestor consists of three major components–specially designed anaerobic microbial consortium. this system is difficult to implement E. Bio toilet (Biodigestor) Bio digester popularly known as Bio toilet with the trade name of e-Best (environment friendly bacterial efficient system for toilets) has been developed by chance of breeding of mosquitoes occur with a suitable design septic tank Disadvantages  It costs higher  Cleaning of chambers is a cumbersome process. In rural areas mechanical device to clean septic tank chambers is normally not available. Even if it is cleaned mechanically. and Government of India. Under such conditions. Ministry of Defence. only manual cleaning is the option.  Lot of water is required to flush human wastes. in water scarcity areas. Therefore. including glaciers. as it has bad odour and containing lot of pathogens. for the Indian Army. The technology was initially developed to address the problem of human waste disposal in eco-friendly manner at high altitude areas.

acetogenic and methanogenic bacteria. antiseptics and detergents. Bio matrix and Tank BD for Rail Coach BD for Single Latrine BD + Reed Bed for Colony . The cold active consortium works over wide temperature range –50C to 450C.developed by adaptation and enrichment at low temperature and subsequent bio-augmentation by selected anaerobes belonging to proteolytic. prevent their washout during excess flushing and provide resistance to adverse situations like pH and temperature change. tolerate a few cycles of freezing and thawing and to an extent detergents and antiseptics. oxygenation. Immobilization matrix accounts for larger bacterial population in the tank.

Installation: possible by any person for installing beneath or beside the toilet. Standalone: As entire treatment happens in situ there is no involvement of any external process. community to mobile and disaster management needs. desert. Effluent reuse: The effluent discharged by bio-digestor eliminates most of the pathogens and organic matter and can be reused for flushing or irrigation purposes. .Figure 7: Various applications for biotoilets Advantages: Space saving: volume is very small – 600lts capacity is sufficient for a family. Zero maintenance: It is a “fit it.shut it and forget it” technology. being rich in Methane can be used as energy source. Energy consumption: Bio-digestor does not require any form of external energy input for its operation. hills etc. during digestion. water logged areas. rocky. Adaptability: This can be used in any geo-climatic conditions prevalent on this globe such as cold. The desired size is 1/3 rd for a family and 1/10th for a colony when compared to a septic tank. Customized options: The technology has various variants for meeting a broad range of user requirements ranging from a single household. On the contrary biogas generated.

 The cost for individual toilet is high  High level of awareness among the user is required. The licensed vendors have obtained formula for developing microbial consortium from DRDO under their license. Disadvantages  Biodigestor is to be installed by licensed vendors authorised by the DRDO. Based on gravity water flows into the biotank. The biotank is made of cement-brick/ RCC or any such material available locally underground with top mounted reed bed system. A variant of biodigestor is available with the name “Biotank cum Reed Bed” and is being used at different places either connected to a single house hold or in a toilet complex. there is any human intervention. The vendor has to ensure quality control of microbial consortium. The biotank does not have any head space and complete capacity is utilized for fermentation of the waste. biodigestor technology has all the advantages available in other treatment systems and much beyond as desired for sustainable ecological . floor washing or irrigation. Hence. gets treated and up-flows into the reed bed for secondary treatment and outflows into the environment or successive use for flushing. The system is also able to treat the grey water generated in the kitchen and bathroom.No human intervention: As it does not require any cleaning and maintenance.

The most desired result being the quality of treatment achieved.5-7.0-7.sanitation.5 750- 6.5 30-150 (mg/100m 1150 l) VS 500-600 200-300 80-120 l) COD 1200- 500-600 75-100 (mg/L) BOD 5 2000 350-500 140-160 25-30 (mg/L) Faecal >3x106 3000- 100-120 (mg/100m coliforms 3500 (MPN/100 ml) Toilet for physically handicapped and old age people . The Table 2 below presents effluent quality achieved in various anaerobic toilet designs. Table2 : Comparison of Effluents Technology/ Parameter Septic Tank Biodige stor pH TS 6.9-7.2 440-570 Biodige stor with Reed bed 7.

v. viii. The minimum size of toilet cubicle should be 1500 mmx1750 mm Minimum clear opening of the door shall be 900 mm and the door shall swing out Suitable arrangement of vertical/horizontal handrails with 50 mm clearance from wall shall be made in the toilet.For physically challenged persons. Taking all these factors in consideration following should be the elements of a toilet for disabled persons: i. they need a proper space to move with such wheel chair inside the toilet. ii. squatting toilet is not suitable.C. Toilet floor shall have a non-slippery surface Guiding block near the entry should have a textural difference Light-weight PVC door shutter should be provided as a sliding door Provision of vertical and horizontal rail as 40 mm steel pipe . should be provided for the use of handicapped persons with essential provision of wash basin near the entrance. iii. One special W. For physically challenged people using wheel chair. Such toilet is also useful to elderly people or people having knee/joint pain. vii. It needs a suitably modify commode toilet to suit their needs. Many people who have no disabilities also find this toilet more comfortable. A grab bar is needed to provide support to such persons while using the toilet. A normal toilet has an average height of around 32-40 cms while for handicapped persons toilets have an average height of about 42-48 cms. while it is a necessity for people with back and leg problems. iv. vi. ix.

digested human waste in the pit becomes odourless and pathogen free by that time . Do’s i. Level of slab on the pit should be 3-4 inches above the ground level. ii. Operation and Maintenance of a household toilet For proper operation and maintenance of a household toilets the following do’s and don’ts should be observed: Do’s and Don’ts to maintain a toilet. Some people are unable to reach that area with toilet paper or have trouble in wiping. Desludging of pit should be done after 2 years.5-2 litters of water to flush out excreta. iii. vii. The rear wall grab bar shall be 36 inches long minimum and shall extend from the center-line of the toilet 12 inches minimum on one side and 24 inches minimum on the other side Additional options for toilets for handicapped persons include adding a handicap bidet to wash the backside. Therefore. otherwise. Toilet should be regularly cleaned. iv. xi. v. Both the pits should be used alternately Keep two litters of bucket with water ready in the toilet for flushing Pour little quantity of water on the pan before it is used. do not make pit with cover slab below the ground level. rainwater may enter into the pit.x. vi. It helps excreta to slide down the trap and pit easily Use only 20 mm water seal/pit trap as it requires only 1.

ii. iv. Don’t throw lighted cigarette butts into the pan Don’t desludge the pit before 2 years. v. Don’ts i. it should be taken out manually from the pan. ix. it stuck in the trap. Don’t use supply water pipe inside the toilet. it blocks the pit trap making toilet non-functional. causing decrease in efficiency of pit and high hydraulic load may cause ground water pollution. should not be put into the pan. References Hand book on technical options for onsite sanitation may 2012 Govt of India Ministry of drinking water and sanitation . resulting in less degradation of wastes. vi. it may cause more problems. Don’t use both the pits simultaneously.viii. rather used in agriculture as it contains good percentage of plant nutrients Such digested human waste should be handled with care and direct hand contact should be avoided/minimized. vii. In case of blockage of pan due to such objects. Manure from the pit should not be thrown. It results in more use of water for flushing. iii. It causes killing of microbes also. Don’t use any chemicals and detergent to clean the pan. Don’t allow kitchen water or bathing water to enter into toilet Any solid material like plastic or small ball etc. after it is filled up and put out of us.

Government of India . Water and Sanitation programme Government of India Bio digester . DRDO Ministry of Defence . Tirichurapalli Technology option s for urban sanitation in India.Gramalaya.